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

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  707 ratings  ·  76 reviews
"With this insightful book, David Whyte offers people in corporate life an opportunity to reach into the forgotten and ignored creative life (their own and the corporation's) and literally water their souls with it. The result is a very well written book that can truly heal."--Clarissa Pinkola Est�s, PH.D., author of Women Who Run With the Wolves and The Gift of Story

Paperback, 368 pages
Published June 1st 1996 by Currency (first published 1994)
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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
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
“There are bland, faceless, and exploitative corporations, and there are starving, curmudgeonly or academic poets unwilling to come to terms with the greater realities of existence, but both are the vestigial remains of a world that I for one would be glad to see disappear. The poet needs the practicalities of making a living to test and temper the lyricism of insight and observation. The corporation needs the poet’s insight and powers of attention to weave the inner world of soul and creativity ...more
Paula Bramante
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For anyone who wants to explore the connection between their work and life outside of work, this book is pure gold. Whyte helps readers to navigate the stresses and pitfalls of working by using poetry, myth, and metaphorical imagery to build bridges between interior and exterior realities of human experience. If work feels like a stress festival, and if you love poetry, imagination, and myth, you may find this book to be an oasis of solace and wisdom, as well as a very practical guide for feelin ...more
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.
Josh Workman
While there’s much of the book that has dated references to the corporate experience of the late 80s and 90s, I feel that there are still a number of deep and important ideas relevant to the corporate experience of today. Whyte uses helpful metaphors to identify the monoculture of the corporate experience, and how easy it is to lose ourselves in the identify of the larger organizations we are a part of. He offers wonderful poetry, language, and examples on how to deepen in to our personal callin ...more
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. ...more
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Whyte uses poetry and the concept of “soul” to help guide us through the modern American workplace. The book was written in 1994. While much has changed from a technological standpoint in the past 26 years, I’m not sure the true nature of the American corporation has. If anything, the rapid increase in technology has exacerbated some of the conflict that is described in this book.

I found much of the arguments in the book to be quite thought-provoking with the potential to stimulate real self-ref
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
David Whyte's writing reveals that he's a man who's truly explored the depth of his own soul and treaded through the dark to see through to the light. He brings various elements of spiritual life in his prose to bring to light what is corporations today: a desire for control, authoritarianism, desire for certainty and fixation, displacement of human wholeness, cutting off the darkness, lack of creativity and aliveness, lack of honesty and courage, cutting off from the ecology, a campground for o ...more
Sep 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
“If work is all about doing, then the soul is all about being: the indiscriminate enjoyer of everything that comes our way. If work is the world, then the soul is our home. This book explores the possibility of being at home in the world, melding soul life with work life, the inner ocean of longing and belonging with the outer ground of strategy and organizational control. Its aim is to reconcile the left-hand ledger sheet of the soul with the right-hand ledger sheet of the corporate world, a ki ...more
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.
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.)
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. ...more
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read parts of this book almost 20 years ago and had a hart time getting into it. I recently reread and found it relevant and powerful. As a CEO of a company, I am interested in how to build a culture and company that will encourage people to bring their whole self, including heart and soul into work. I think that work can provide meaning, creativity, and growth to people. A thought provoking look at work and career as part of pursuing the good life.
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Didn't finish this because it was a library book but really enjoyed what I did read. This book looks into the soul of corporate life, talks about the real motivations you have and then the tasks you have to do on a job. It talks about Beowulf the story and how you have to go deep into the lake/darkness to really understand yourself and that corporations don't really support this well.

I'd love to re-borrow and read more of this book.
Allysha Lavino
Jan 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Found this book at a perfect time in my life when I was looking to find meaning in the business world. David Whyte brings the soul back to the corporate world and brings poetry to breathe life into the practical. This book asks a lot of its reader, combining two worlds that often live in opposition, but for those who brave the adventure, it is a doorway into a more soulful, balance life.
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.
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
A lovely reminder to awaken your deepest, most authentic self/soul and allow it to guide your life. If you can’t or won’t do that, then at least unhide your essential nature and bring it to work with you.
Erin Pretorius
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sara Segura
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Life altering
Serenity Bohon
Feb 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nf-living
I put too much pressure on this one. It definitely affirmed my soul struggles with corporate America, but the validation was too frustrating to overcome. The solutions never really sank in. He teaches us to bring our soul with us into the workplace and not leave it at the door, but I'd rather keep body and soul out of it. ...more
Jeff Garrison
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
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
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
Conor Flynn
Nov 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
My heart rouses
thinking to bring you news
of something
that concerns you
and concerns many men. Look at
what passes for the new.
You will not find it there but in
despised poems.
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.

-William Carlos Williams, quoted in the book and the source of the book's title.

"There is a sacred otherness to the world which is breathtakingly helpful simply because it is not us; it is not defined by our human wor
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
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
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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

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  If you listen to NPR regularly, you’ve likely heard the voice of Shankar Vedantam, the longtime science correspondent and host of the radio...
10 likes · 2 comments
“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.” 30 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.” 7 likes
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