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The Poet's Eye

At The Corporate Theatre we believe that the iron grip of jargon on the business community—and on all organizations—is the greatest weight that individuals choose to bear. It appeals to the desire for comfort, familiarity and risk-aversion, and it kills thought, feeling and the true sense of personal purpose. The foundation of all that we do is the re-shaping and re-directing of language from corporate jargon to the creation of realities.

Our founder Martin Best talks about how embracing the 'Poets Eye' can help leaders unleash their creativity and imagination.

"Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,

Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend

More than cool reason ever comprehends.

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet

Are of imagination all compact.

One sees more devils than vast hell can hold:

That is the madman. The lover, all as frantic,

Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt.

The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,

Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven,

And as imagination bodies forth

The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen

Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing

A local habitation and a name.

Such tricks hath strong imagination

That if it would but apprehend some joy

It comprehends some bringer of that joy.”

These words are spoken by Theseus in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while the court are waiting to see the play of Pyramus and Thisbe that has been created by the local workmen. It’s an explanation of the act of creation, in which a person becomes the creator of a universe and so becomes literally like a god.

Humankind is the only species that can create a world within the imagination, and transfer it to others in words.

This is one kind of creativity. What does it entail? Well, look at the words. We look to lovers and mad people, the first mad with desire (Shakespeare is here referring to Plato’s take on ‘appetite’, the kind of mental derangement that we would today call erotomania), and the second deranged in the head. Both are overcome with wild and energetic fantasies.

But the poet isn’t. His frenzy is fine, crafted and directed. The poet, which is a word that means ‘maker’, a name surviving still in Scotland where a poet is a ‘macker’, has the job of making something with his pen. And in order to do so he has to keep his faculties aware of what must be known and experienced as something real and tangible, and also of what is in his head, where it is a concept that only exists in the clouds of ‘heaven’.

Corporate jargon is, strangely, mostly the language of that heaven of the mind where concepts originate. And if we don’t use our poet’s eye, they are likely to remain there. We have to be poets, makers, if any concept is to be moved from its heavenly home and into the real world of a place where it can be given a name and seen.

What brings this making about is imagination, the power to make an image. We can make it with paint, or with film, or with marble, or with a pencil. Most frequently, we do it with spoken words. In stories and pictures. This is what we call ‘painting a picture’, and we do it all the time unconsciously. We receive it too, as we listen to others speaking and describing. Someone once said they preferred the radio to television because the scenery was so much better.

So what we do when we are being poets is to dig into that concept in the heaven of our heads, imagine it into a real seen picture, and then describe what we see, making sure that description is in terms of locality, or place, and name, which is to say people, events, and things. This is the basis of all fairytales, all novels, all theatre: to give to the airy nothing of a concept the local habitation and name of physical and visible reality.

Now, if we ‘apprehend’ the reward this gives us when it’s done well, we experience some kind of joy, because our eyes have been opened to a new place, new events, new people. We can ‘see it for ourselves’, and that’s very empowering. It’s also uniquely human. The leader (and that includes most people these days) is a good leader if she or he can do this.

And having done it, the leader becomes more revealed to, and known by, their listeners. Those listeners, the ones being led, can see the leader who has moved them from concept to reality as the person they really are, their individual humanness. And so we come to comprehend the bringer of joy, the one who makes nothing into many things that we can see and follow and be fulfilled by.

If we go back to the idea of the poet’s fine frenzy, though, we perceive that each poet is a craftsperson. And craftsmanship is one of the keys to what we might call a democratic leadership, because craftsmanship involves stepping back and looking at what needs to be done, just as a painter steps back to look at the canvas.

When we step back like this, we evaluate what we are doing, what we have done, and what we are about to do, as we create our picture. And as we evaluate, we realise that there are things about our craftsmanship that are lacking, not good enough, or inadequate.

It’s at this point that courage comes in. The poet’s eye must roll in a fine frenzy, but it’s the poet’s pen that must turn what’s seen into a local habitation and a name. That pen! Someone once wrote that writing is easy: all you have to do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead. Every time we paint a picture in words, we are confronted by our inability to satisfy ourselves.

We are challenged to break through these constraints, for they are mostly self-imposed. They have to be removed, and that takes courage. The courage to let go of that safety zone of the concept, and to bring it out into the open with our imagination. We have to allow our real selves to do this, and it can be scary to do so, because it means letting go of what we think protects us, and being our real selves.

This, for the moment, is all I have to say about creativity, save for one thing: it is in each human person’s gift to be creative in the way that I have described, and it is in corporate language, the language of conformity, that is its greatest enemy and one of the biggest curses of our age."

We thank Martin for sharing his thoughts. To learn more about The Corporate Theatre and how we can help you and your leaders turn concepts into realities and lead through inspiration visit our website www.thecorporatetheatre.com, follow us on twitter @tctheatre, or 'like' us on Facebook.

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