“David’s “Poetry Table™” workshop was simply wonderful. We see quite a few arts-based learning approaches at The Banff Centre. I can honestly say his workshop was among the best I’ve seen and engaged with. He has a powerful, rock solid workshop that inspires and invites meaningful introspection and reflection. It’s a wonderful example of arts-based learning – for very practical and relevant ends. He did a great job ‘hosting’ us and holding the space for some rich personal and group learning – helping us build community, here at The Centre.”
– Nick Nissley, Ed.D, Executive Director, Leadership Development at The Banff Centre

“David and I both presented at an event in December 2009, and I was so impressed by what he did. He led us through a “poetry table” where the group wandered around reading many poems set on tables. We then chose one and went into small groups to read them aloud and speak about why this poem mattered to us–it was a surprising, intimate and revealing experience; one of the best uses of poetry I’ve ever experienced (and the collection of poems from a wide array of poets was wonderful).

I have met a lot of ‘poets’ over the years, but David is something different–a real poet and a real consultant. David is a skilled and serious consultant with a deep poetic sensibility.”

— Margaret Wheatley, speaker and writer and President emerita of The Berkana Institute.

“David has invented the “large group, whole system, cafe”counterpart for engaging the world in poetry. David is among a very few poets that have the consciousness to design an experience for the audience. David is about the profound meaning of the poetic experience.”

–Peter Block, author, consultant, partner in Designed Learning, and citizen of Cincinnati, Ohio.

“David Markwardt is an unusually gifted poet and organization consultant – a rare and powerful combination. David helps organizations get to the root of the issues that confront them. He’s able to go deep fast, always with respect for his clients’ needs. Through the portal of poetry and using his clear understanding of how people learn and change, David makes magic happen in the workplace. I recommend him enthusiastically — for his capacity to move people and, more importantly, for his ability to help people move themselves.”

— Leslie Osborn, Consultant, Business and Organization Effectiveness, Independent Consultant

“The Poetry Table™ is a great vehicle for gaining insight about roles, goals, and challenges in the workplace.  It opens a level of communication between participants that is profound and provocative without crossing into the realm of being too personal an interaction for coworkers.  At the same time, the knowledge that I gained about myself will serve me well in and out of the office.  The knowledge that I gained about my fellow participants helped me understand their needs in a way I had not anticipated.  I would recommend this to any organization that is seeking to foster greater understanding and cooperation among coworkers. It is better than any team building exercise that I have taken part in.”

— Elisabeth Keller, Education Program Director. Santa Fe Children’s Museum

“David lives and works in the intersection between the dynamic worlds of leadership, experiential learning and poetry. He is an original human being, in every sense of the word and thus, he creates original ways to bring the tenets of poetry and the skills of leadership together in order to coach individuals towards deeper self-awareness, courageous action, and more authentic leadership.

This wonderful juxtaposition of art and leadership piqued my interest so much that I showed up at a workshop that he was co-leading at a recent leadership conference in Boston, just so I could see him in action. It was at this point that I got to observe what an adept facilitator of learning David is. He makes his impact on a group as much by his physical presence and his silence as he does by his words. And his words, when he uses them, are poetic, apt and resonant. David is a leader of leaders and a teacher of teachers.”

— Rebecca Merrill, Senior Executive Coach, Merrill Leadership

“Poetry?!? I don’t read poetry?!? That was me before being introduced to the value of poetry with David. I had read poetry in school and analyzed some of the poems written by great scholars, but really never had any interest in learning more, or discovering why it may be important to me.

During my time with David, he asked me to participate in an exercise using poetry.  The task was to read through several poems and pick out any that “spoke to me, my heart, my soul” and to me as a leader.  I found several that caught my interest that had messages that were passionately meaningful to me. I had not experienced poetry in that way before. It was always a literary mystery to me, and thus was misunderstood.

Through my experience that day, I was able to learn that poetry has a very profound effect on me. It is able to evoke spiritual emotion and shake my very core….with words.

Part of the exercise that day was to read the poem, then read it again. I found the second time I read the poem, tears were streaming from my eyes, because I forced myself to listen to what the words were really saying, and that was the point. Poetry that has meaning to me, has the ability to keep me forever focused on my dreams, aspirations, desires and goals, by reminding me what is important to me and what has the most meaning in my life.

I never imagined words…in the form of poetry could be so instrumental in keeping my mind and soul centered in the place I desire to be, in my life.”

— David Sisneros, Program Director, Metropolitan Homelessness Project

“What does poetry have to do with leadership?” That’s the question that brought participants to David’s workshop, Profound Speech: Leadership and the Transformative Power of Poetry. The answer began to dawn as David quoted Emily Dickinson, “A word is dead when it is said, some say. I say it just begins to live that day.”

I was going to learn from David just how language can touch people at their core – something that good leadership can do, as well. I saw “proof” of this theory throughout the workshop as David used compelling words, phrases, quotes, and poems which had an effect on everyone there. Personally, I learned several “lessons” about leadership.

Leadership Lesson 1: Ask powerful questions to initiate connections between people and their work, to help them take responsibility for outcomes, and open themselves for growth.

With his opening questions, David laid the responsibility for the outcomes of my workshop experience squarely on my shoulders, reminding me that I make it what it becomes by my participation, willingness to risk, and investment in others’ experiences. David asked powerful questions that helped me connect and be involved in the workshop.

Leadership Lesson 2: Use thoughtful language and fruitful conversations to open up new spaces for ideas to emerge, for change to begin.

Throughout the workshop, I learned that words can be powerful brokers of change. By using effective language and small group exchanges, David provided opportunities for transformation. I was able to connect to deeper places in my mind and heart as I reflected on questions, quotes, and poetry and shared my thoughts with others in small groups. I was engaged with words, and doing so opened up space in my mind for what I could do as a leader back home.

Leadership Lesson 3: Encourage all voices to be heard and respected to build interpersonal connections and healthy community.

As we broke into small groups, David asked us to “substitute inquiry and curiosity for advice,” which can be difficult to do. Those who are not good at listening often want to problem-solve and suggest ideas. I learned that listening can be more powerful than speaking. I had the opportunity to practice active listening, a skill all good leaders must develop and help others to develop.

Leadership Lesson 4: Give others the opportunity to encounter art as a way to inspire and initiate personal transformation which, in turn, instigates change in communities or organizations.

David led us in a powerful exercise when he spread a bunch of poems around the room and asked us to go around, in silence, and read as many as we could in the time allowed. He asked us to note those to which we had some connection. Then, when we came back together, we each brought our favorite one and in small groups, read them aloud. Then we discussed specific images, words, and phrases that made an impression, what the poem meant to us, and if we shared it with others, who would they be? Again, the direct experience of using words—thinking, reading aloud, questioning, sharing our truth, and listening, in relation to art—helped me understand their potential impact.

When he formed the title of this workshop, David must have thought carefully about using language that would create interest, and it worked. Because I was “drawn in,” I had a chance to experience poetry as a catalyst for change. Words opened new spaces for thoughts and feelings to bubble up, which gave me new perspectives. Having a new perspective gives me the option to change. By the end of the workshop, I better understood leadership and myself as a leader. I’ll use what I learned to touch others at their core, at their heart, which is where change begins. As it turns out, poetry has a lot to do with leadership!

-Dawn Wright, Executive Director, High Road Artisans