December in the Lobby of NBBJ

Glass all around and outside something like a courtyard, but smaller, slimmer, moving. A skinny market. A pedestrian cross street. A parked truck, laden with ladders, blinks there. Clean surfaces. Undriven roads. Switzerland!! Rusted metal. Steel girders. Weathered brick. Bamboo hedge. Sculpted space, cool space. And moving through the space, men and women. Freshly cut hair. The right sweater. I do not have the jacket, shoes, look for this. My glasses are outdated. In every way, I am patched together. Inside the lobby, on the floor, I find a ball from my sweater, a fuzz ball. Only it is out of place. Charcoal gray ottomans with a hint of camel in shadow flank 3 long leather benches in true camel. Bent strips of metal serve as side tables and hold glass cylinders with red floral mixes of winter and spring. Ordinary people, I suppose, in thoughtful places, smart places, clean bright spaces. Spaces with room--to move, think, earn, gain.

The receptionist says there are 300 employees. A corporation indeed! Don't let it overwhelm you, frumpy little poet. No mess. No trash. Just one little fuzz ball out of place. And you, sitting on the sable stable, looking at the specked rubber floor that stretches as far as the night sky from under you. And white tile in a moat around that. But look! There are lines to pull you up. An opaque purple column of glass! Does it bear weight? 8 silver dollars of light in an angle on the floor. 9 wood beams, 8 bands of glass, form a massive stair that lifts in a pressured ceiling above the receptionist, doomed. But her cords are taken care of. Where is her mess of attachments? How do her devices work?

An oversized, brown bristle mat, set into the floor, walks 15' through the door. In the preamble, then, are the shadows of 5 tools, compacted, elongated and widened behind their tool of shadow. 5 hand tools evenly spaced on an acrylic board. We work. We work. We work. Etc. The ceiling, though, is unfinished, as if to say this is what we were, what we could have been, our under stuffs. Pipes painted taupe. Taupe.

All who move here are darkly dressed, not in black, but in non-black darks. Code for winter success. The floor is noisy with clicking tapping, clacking shoes. No rubber soles. Only good shoes. Leather crafts. Waiting is anxious making. It heightens things. I wait.

Letter to a Corporation

Dear Sir or Madam:

My name is A. K. "Mimi" Allin. I've received funding from The Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs for a project called Adopt-A-Poet, which entails placing me, the poet, in a corporation in Seattle for one month. This will be the nation’s first “Corporate Poet Residency,” an exciting proposition for which I believe a corporation stands to gain recognition as a company with a penchant for the arts and for innovation. I would welcome a meeting to talk about a Corporate Poet Residency at NBBJ.

I’m a professional artist. I have worked with a number of local institutions to activate spaces and create communities–Bumbershoot, SAM, ACT, Seattle Parks & Recreation. I believe NBBJ and the poet have some common interests. Your interests in creating a more liveable world and in shaping a future that enhances lives and inspires human potential, ring loud and clear to and through the poet.

What possible value can a poet offer a corporation? If a poet were to go looking for a corporate soul and found one…or affirmed the notion that ideas do change the world…or proposed ongoing research into the self as a means of discovering the world…or offered hope or faith or… When Bachelard spoke of Desire Paths, he meant poets in corporations and corporations in communities, intentional living in spaces shaped by love and attention. No doubt, you get that. The poet works to articulate that.

There’s evidence, too, that keeping artists within communities increases property values. I’m proposing that keeping a poet in the workplace will do the same for job values. Art (be it performance or writing or visual art on the walls) boosts moral, draws communities together, wakes people to their surroundings. Poets have a unique way of plucking the nerves in us that wants to live outside of the mundane, that strive and hope and grow. Why work for a company that cares about us? We long for meaning. I believe poets and corporations have much to offer one another in the realms of power and creativity and that the artist can augment the heart of a corporation simply by being there. “A home (corporation) without a cat (poet)--and a well-fed, well-petted, and properly revered cat (poet)-- may be a perfect home (corporation), perhaps, but how can it prove its title?” (Mark Twain).

Here is the residency I propose:
1. NBBJ supplies a modest workspace (desk, printer, desktop computer)
2. The poet works on location, 9-5, Monday-Friday, Jan-Feb 2010
3. CityArtist covers the poet’s expenses & publication of a chapbook
4. The poet conducts regular “open hours,” offers a corporate-wide workshop & public reading
5. The poet does not propose to write about the corporation, but simply about what inspires her

Thank you for your time. I’m eager to meet you and discuss the possibilities.

Most sincerely,
A. K. “Mimi” Allin

Adopt-A-Poet, CityArtist 2009

Adopt-A-Poet was proposed as a CityArtist project by A. K. "Mimi" Allin in February of 2009. CityArtist is a program of The Mayor's Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs in Seattle, WA. Below is a synopsis of the project proposal.

ADOPT-A-POET is a group of actions that comprise one poet seeking employment for her work. The goal is to take poetry into uncharted territories and to raise the questions of what it might mean to offer substantial payment to a poet. For this endeavor, I'll organize a month-long residency at a major corporation in the Seattle area. Can a poet successfully broker a deal with a corporation? And, if so, what does the poet have to gain? A place, a voice, a publication? And the corporation, what do they have to gain? The raw stuff of the poet, perhaps the same creative urge in their workers? Might we together gain access to what we need to thrive? Corporate art hangs in corporate entrances saying, “This is our impulse!” I want to be part of that impulse. I want to find a way to connect the work of the poet with the work of the corporation. Securing a residency at a corporation will be a success in and of itself –-a coup for poets nationwide, a shift in thinking. This project hopes to pave the way for poets and artist everywhere to begin entertain the idea of forming bonds with businesses. How are artists to change the world is they do not have a face in the workplace?