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Prospects for an Arranged Marriage

Poetry-making and Policy-making (Part #1)


Part A of Poetry-making and Policy-making: Arranging a Marriage between Beauty and the Beast (1993)


The theme here is the future relationship between poetry (including rhythm) and policy making (including management) in their various forms. This might even include the possible role of technology in reconciling them in more meaningful and fruitful ways. Exploring the relationship between such seemingly opposed concerns calls for continuing dialogue between imaginative musing and the constraints of experience.

1. Similarities between poetry-making and policy- making

There are few useful guidelines for such dialogue. There are however many who would declare it to be impossible, meaningless, or even destructive of the principles that such disciplines respectively embody. Such people have had many opportunities to make their point and by so doing may well have imposed unfortunate constraints on the emergence of new approaches to meaningful social organization. As ever, we are faced with the challenge of facilitating a marriage between the Sleeping Beauty and the Raging Beast -- however inappropriate such a marriage may appear.

In their own ways, both poetry and policy-making are uniquely concerned with transformation in the present moment -- namely with the transformative moment that patterns the subsequent flow of experience. For poetry, the focus is on the transformation of the aesthetic experience through imagination, with all that implies for the emergence of novel, subtle and complex forms of understanding and coherence. In the world of policy-making, it is the transformation of power relationships and the use of collective energy, namely the emergence of novel forms of social coherence in practice. In this sense policy-making may be understood as the shadow of poetry. In such an encounter between Quality and Quantity, both are however "manipulative" of meaning in the best and worst senses.

There is another similarity in that both are also "unprincipled" in the best and worst senses of the term. Both are prepared to sacrifice much, using whatever resources seem appropriate, in order to achieve this transformative process. In this respect both endeavour to break through or transcend conventional patterns that constrain the emergence of the new as noted by information scientist Kathleen Forsythe (1987), herself a poet. For management, the "bottom line" may be "getting things done", often with an objective limited to profit. For poetry it is associated with some sense of "getting it right" or "goodness of fit", whether or not the relevance is purely whimsical for many.

odness of fit", whether or not the relevance is purely whimsical for many.