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We Asked A Poetry Professor To Critique Those “Broems” On LinkedIn

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If you spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, first of all, I’m sorry. Second of all, you may have encountered a strange new form of inspirational business wisdom that goes viral on the platform. Here at BuzzFeed News, we call it the “broem.” It’s typically an anecdote about unusual career choices, overcoming a business obstacle, or generally #CrushingIt.

The distinctive feature of the broem.

Is that every sentence.

Is written on its own line.

Like this.

So even though it’s may not have been intended to be a “poem” per se, it visually identifies itself as a poem.

And who says poems can only exist if the author intended to it to be a poem? Poetry is everywhere, right?

These broems can be shared thousands of times on LinkedIn – they clearly strike a chord with people. So maybe there’s something to them more than just business platitudes. Perhaps there’s some hidden elegance in the imagery, or maybe they’re actually written in perfect iambic pentameter, and our brains subliminally find them pleasing. Maybe these are actually great pieces of art.

So we asked an expert. Oliver de la Paz is an assistant professor of English at College of the Holy Cross, the author of four collections of poems, and the winner of the Akron Poetry Prize. He has edited poetry anthologies and is a chair on the board of Kundiman, an organization for promoting the works of Asian-American writers. BuzzFeed News sent three broems to de la Paz, and he offered his critique.

I’ve been single for four years

I take the Y-Combinator idea “Keep your numbers of people around you low as people cause problems” a bit too literally

In 2015 I had clients and was starting to do public speaking at home and boarding the 747 Boeing to speak abroad in places like Estonia (?) and the United States, where I won best speaker at SXSW V2V 2015.

Life was awesome, right?

Well, yes, I was going on Tinder dates and having fun but I can’t say my business was really growing.

The reason?

I was trying to do it all on my own.

Aside from the writers in my copywriting agency, I was the greedy Scrooge McDuck locked up in my apartment in Shoreditch keeping all my money to myself.

No coaches

No staff

Just me, takeaway barbecue sauce base pizzas, and my money.

I thought I was really living the life.

What a joke

In 2016 I actually started growing as a brand (and making significantly more $) by doing three things (hint: They all involved other people):

> Partnering on writing my first book on growth hacking with Austen Allred

> Creating a Facebook group on growth hacking, Traffic and Copy, with Charlie Price

> Crucially, getting my first mentors, who helped me grow my business by focusing on the right things.

You can’t do it all on your own

Criticism:

I like the directness of the speaker in this poem and I particularly enjoyed how the speaker would ask direct questions of their reader. Clancy writes, “Life was awesome, right?” and for a minute, we as the audience agree. It was. But there is an air of tragedy behind the overtures of this speaker’s inclusion. They’re urging readers towards an understanding of their private pain as they write, “I thought I was really living the life. / What a joke.” Ultimately the speaker of this poem acknowledges the limits of their ambition by cataloging the turn in their lives as they declare they “Partner[ed] on writing [their] first book on growth hacking with Austen Alred” or “Creat[ed] a Facebook group on growth hacking … with Charlie Price,” and in the end the speaker declares, that yes, “[they] can’t do it all on [their] own.”

Some people think having kids will negatively impact their careers.

My experience has been just the opposite.

Before I had kids, I worked more, but I learned that more work ≠ more success.

Working smarter = more success.

Around 1999, a VP from Oracle, Matt Mosman, spoke at BYU where I was a student.

After his talk I went up and I asked him about his work schedule, and he said he left work every day at 5 pm and dedicated his nights and weekends to his family.

I asked him how in the world he could do that and get his work done and be as successful as he had been.

He said when he was at work, he focused on work–he didn’t waste time.

Soon after I started my business and ignored Matt’s advice for the next eight years.

I worked 100 hour weeks, and rarely spent time with my wife.

Thankfully she stuck with me.

By 2007 I wised up, and when we had kids I made a commitment to not repeat my mistake, even if it hurt my business.

But it didn’t hurt my business, it helped it.

When I thought I had unlimited time to work, I wasted a lot of time.

When I had kids, it drove it home for me that I had limited time, so I got focused and worked smarter.

And since then, my business has done much, MUCH better.

What about you? Has family gotten in the way of your career, or helped it?

Criticism:

In concise and direct language, the speaker of “Kids” ponders the issue of whether having children and a family is a detriment to the vigor of one’s career. And the speaker in equally concise lines acknowledges the mistakes of the past as he writes, “I worked 100 hour weeks, and rarely spent time with my wife.” The tension between the direct and professional tone and the latent emotional underpinnings of this poem spark an explosive recognition — the speaker, though he had failed at balancing family and career, has been granted a second chance. The moment the speaker states that his spouse, “Thankfully … stuck with me,” we as an audience share in his joy as the speaker continues to invite us into the conversation and asks us whether we too have struggled with the very same questions this speaker raises.

How I founded a multi-million-dollar agency in six months:

Step 1: Quit job.

Step 2: Move cities.

Step 3: Go out drinking with a new friend.

Step 4: After several hours of knowing them, invest all your money into their idea.

Step 5: Purchase an office you can’t afford.

Step 6: Call your parents saying, “I made a huge mistake.”

Step 7: Land one client who barely covers rent. And keep paying yourself nothing.

Step 8: Make sure to drink all the free beer in the coworking space to survive.

Step 9: Turn the client into a believer who refers two more clients.

Step 10: Hire your first paid intern.

Step 11: Change everything about the business.

Step 12: Realize that nothing you do is certain to work out.

Step 13: Something works out.

Step 14: Double down on it.

Step 15: Profit.

Step 16: Write viral rags to riches LinkedIn posts.

Step 17: Call your parents saying, “I’m a genius.”

Step 18: Learn to ignore the haters.

Inspired by my co-founder, Houston Golden

Criticism:

“How To” is a poem in the tradition of many other poets and writers who have explored hybrid genres — that is, utilizing forms from other traditions for the purposes of poetry. Julio Cortázar’s Cronopios Y Famas is a book of little vignettes, some of which are structured in a manner similar to Fechter’s “How To” poem. And similar to the work of Cortázar, Fechter employs the simple and direct language of instruction to convey the speaker’s clear path towards success in a manner that makes readers believe that they too can achieve such heights. The steps become an incantatory part of the lines, as though the achievement of “Step 15: Profit” is as simple as reciting the meditative cadences found in this poem.

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