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The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America
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The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  623 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Only a poet could produce such a provocative analysis of today's widespread disenchantment with business -- or such a daring prescription for using the classics of poetry to revitalize the soul of corporate America.
Paperback, 368 pages
Published June 1st 1996 by Crown Business (first published 1994)
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4.25  · 
Rating details
 ·  623 ratings  ·  63 reviews

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Mark Oppenlander
This is a tough book to review. In part, it's difficult to review because the subject matter and content of the book are themselves hard to describe. And in part, it is hard to review because I don't fully know how to discuss how I feel about this book yet.

David Whyte is a poet and an academic but also a corporate consultant. In this book he discusses the meeting place of those two vocations - the intersection between poetry and the corporate office. Whyte argues that we need to rediscover our i
Aug 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
This may have been the book that sparked my search for authenticity. While reading it, I came across a poem that I have consistently returned to over the past eight years, entitled, “Lost,” by David Wagoner.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back a
Chad Cecil
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Stupid good. Like a slow sip of great whisky...burns going down but clears you right up. Tons to process.
Jun 02, 2017 rated it liked it
I marked so many passages in this book, and it was a very worthwhile read. Something about the flow and how the concepts were all connected could have been a little more focused. I've already recommended it a few times though.
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book challenged my cynical attitudes about what level of creativity and authenticity can be had in the standard white collar corporate American career. I remain pessimistic on that front overall, but less so after reading this. Loved the application of literary analysis; this book summarizes a number of "life lessons" relevant to just about anybody in most walks of life, regardless of occupation. Sometimes meanders a bit before returning to its main points, but highly thought-provoking.
Dec 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Oh there were a lot of WORDS in this book. Some of them quite lyrical. It took me weeks to get through it because of both the font and the wordiness. I loved some of the connections and conclusions that Whyte makes, especially about preserving innocence while valuing experience, about bringing genuine and complex humanity into the workplace. But this could have been half the length and made the same points. (I’m not normally a complainer about length, FWIW.)
David Pace
Poetry and our contemporary working life never had more to say to each other, including those ensconced in corporate life where one would think poetry and lyricism have been relegated to the basement . . . and weekends (if you're lucky).

A modern-day prophet of the way the humanities shape, inform and revolutionize our internal lives and the lives we share with others, Whyte invites us to see even the most mundane (life in a shirt and tie) as ecstatic, trans-formative . . . a journey.
Vinod Narayan
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I recommend this read for every one interested in Organizational development and involvement in Work and Life in a very deeper level.
Erin Pretorius
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sara Segura
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Life altering
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
While attending a poetry workshop on Iona in June, I learned of this book and was intrigued. When I got back home, I picked up a copy and read it back in August while in North Carolina on a planning leave. I was pleasantly surprised. It was better than I expected. Whyte is a British poet who moved to America and found himself involved with corporations as he attempted to encourage their creativity with the use of poetry.

You’d think that management and poets would avoid each other. After all, man
Daniel Seifert
The Heart Aroused reflects attention to the self as soul navigating and struggling in the large organization, viz. the corporation. Whyte speaks as and to a poet (perhaps in most of us), who deeply wants to live and not lose the fullness of human enjoyment and creativity amidst the smothering pressures of an organization. He draws from the story of Beowulf as a way of reinforcing a path downward into the depths of one's self with all the vulnerabilities of the psyche (e.g., anxiety, grief, terro ...more
Martin Blackman
Dec 15, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: creative people between projects
This book is worthwhile if you're locked into a demanding professional office life and looking for inspiration to break out and survive psychically. What I don't get and what I think makes the book less than it should be is his narrow reference to corporate America as the primary and singular example where the soul does not flourish but can. I think space for the soul and space to be creative is boxed in is the challenge in a good many other work situations than the author addresses directly. S ...more
Apr 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
A great thing about books is how they can sit on your shelf for months, if not years, untouched, until you pick one of them up on a whim and it changes how you look at the world. Such is the case for me with "The Heart Aroused," which I brought home last year from a used bookstore.

The subtitle sums up the subject matter: "Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America." Whyte discusses poetry, story, and soul, and how, in a healthy psyche, they are intertwined with our life's work
Jan Höglund
Nov 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was first published in 1994. If I had read it twenty years ago, it might had influenced me to take another path in my work life? Or, maybe, I needed the experience acquired during those twenty years to really appreciate the book? It's a wonderful book. David Whyte eloquently addresses the split between our work lives and the part of ourselves (our souls) which are forced underground in the corporate world. This is the split between what is nourishing and what is agonizing at work. Davi ...more
Mar 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-read-again
Many of you are aware of the SIM RLF (Society of Information Management Regional Leadership Forum) reading list that is updated each year and posted on their site -

One book that has consistently appeared on the list is David Whyte's "The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America".

David describes preserving the soul as "we come out of hiding at last and bring more of ouselves into the workplace. Especially the parts that
Cameron Bernard
Apr 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
My favorite part of this book was Whyte's selection of poetry and stories. As an anthology it is worth looking through.

Further, his commentary on corporate life and the depression of the soul is spot on. I wonder, however, if some corporations have taken his advice since 1995. There appears to be some organizations that allow people to bring the the corporately repressed parts of their lives into the workplace. Perhaps they have been listening.

If anything, this book nudges the corporate American
Jul 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book found me, literally and figuratively. David Whyte's amazing talent puts the classic writers and poets into context for modern society.

"The question is whether you will give yourself to the great life consciously. The German poet Rilke said: Winning does not tempt that man. This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively by constantly greater beings."

"As the Chinese sage Wu Wei Wu admonished: Why are you unhappy? Because 99.9% of what you think, And everything you do, is for your s
Aug 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I can't remember why I picked this up, but it was pretty good for not having read a review or anything beforehand. Whyte explores traditional story-telling (classic poetry like Beowulf) in the context of the work-a-day world, demonstrating how it is pretty common to stuff the dark parts of our beings down where they can't be seen or accessed for inspiration or creativity. This I think is true in modern culture, not just in the corporate world. Not sure why he limited his audience. It was a diffe ...more
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
I think David Whyte is a terrific writer. I was given this book by a friend who is in the corporate world. I, however, am not. I work with elementary school children so the information about corporate cultures was a foreign world to me. It did help me understand the struggle of those who are in that world to somehow maintain a personal sense of morals and values in a culture that often doesn't encourage that. I thought his writing was profound and am now reading Three Marriages which I find much ...more
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
A moving and poetic paean to the soul, the spirit, and the art of work. This book isn't filled with actionable tips and tricks, but still contains plenty of meat to inspire and guide artistic souls making their way through the corporate employment experience. What I love about Whyte, specifically, is that he doesn't demonize corporate America; he illuminates its realities and helps people see options beyond misery and soul-death. His spirit echoes my own belief that you can keep your head and yo ...more
Cindy Cunningham
Aug 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was inspired to read this book by reading David Whyte's poetry, which is outstanding. This book is very thought-provoking and it's inspirational. I do love the method of using fairy tales as a metaphor to walk through a universal human experience. It's a strong way to think through something and feel differently about it. Whyte does regular talks to corporations on this topic, and it seems he is coaching people to be less fearful, true to their inner voice and to be more presentin their lives, ...more
Amanda Mitchell
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
David Whyte, published poet and corporate consultant (bet you’ve not heard that combo before!) uses both modern and classic poetry to show how anyone can craft a happier work experience. Unlike any other business book I’m aware of, the author gives equal—if not superior—weight to the importance of your feelings about work.

As someone who understands the workplace—warts and all—the author is able to help us see things differently through the poems he references and the way he crafts his arguments.
Apr 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a beautiful book about work, poetry, and what happens to the soul of the American corporate worker. David Whyte uses stories and poems to tell us something about how we can become more alive through our work and he makes a case for why this is necessary for each of us. I was deeply moved by his story-telling. I'd recommend this book to anybody who wants to think about the soul's journey through this human life.
Aug 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
A good read for people who work in social arts or sciences, the world of business, and of course for poets. David Whyte is an intelligent and soulful writer, a transplant from the UK to the islands of Puget Sound who has some useful things to say about the intersection of capitalism and the human spirit.
Joe Tye
Sep 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
In his book The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America David Whyte wrote: "Work is the very fire where we are baked to perfection, and like the master of the fire itself, we add the essential ingredient and fulfillment when we walk into the flames ourselves and fuel the transformation of ordinary, everyday forms into the exquisite and the rare."
Kate Arms
Oct 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Heart Aroused addresses corporate cultures and calls for a reimagination of work that includes the humanity of the people working. Whyte makes an argument that this is not only good for people but also good for corporations.

Whyte is a poet and poetry flows through the book, but there is also a grounding in science and systems theory.

This is a book to reflect on and reread.
L.L. Barkat
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am on the third reading of this book. It's that good.

From Whyte's thoughts on Beowulf and Coleridge, to his discussion of the power of the Image and the via negativa, there's always more to love.

Currently enjoying an excellent discussion of the book over at Tweetspeak Poetry...
Mar 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: kate, evelyn, anna
If you work in an organization and also think life should focus on art/poetry/literature, then this is a critically important book for you to read. I have read it three times and am currently reading it again. I always get something new out of it. Whyte is a poet, works in helping organizations get deeper and more creative takes on life and would be a great person to go on a long walk with.
Wells Hamilton
Nov 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I recommend this book to anyone with even a small interest in poetry. Whyte brings his reader to the edge of a deep pool of poetry and shows us how to see our reflection on the surface. I found the book thought provoking and it led to refreshing new ideas about my life.
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Poet David Whyte grew up with a strong, imaginative influence from his Irish mother among the hills and valleys of his father’s Yorkshire. He now makes his home in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

The author of seven books of poetry and three books of prose, David Whyte holds a degree in Marine Zoology and has traveled extensively, including living and working as a naturalist guide in th
“It is not the thing you fear that you must deal with, it is the mother of the thing you fear. The very thing that has given birth to the nightmare.” 25 likes
“The rich flow of creativity, innovation, and almost musical complexity we are looking for in a fulfilled work life cannot be reached through trying or working harder. The medium for the soul, it seems, must be the message. The river down which we raft is made up of the same substance as the great sea of our destination. It is an ever-moving, firsthand creative engagement with life and with others that completes itself simply by being itself. This kind of approach must be seen as the "great art" of working in order to live, of remembering what is most important in the order of priorities and what place we occupy in a much greater story than the one our job description defines. Other "great arts," such as poetry, can remind and embolden us to this end. Whatever we choose to do, the stakes are very high. With a little more care, a little more courage, and, above all, a little more soul, our lives can be so easily discovered and celebrated in work, and not, as now, squandered and lost in its shadow.” 5 likes
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