Last fall, a few weeks into my stay in Bergerac, I started writing poetry in an unexpectedly prolific fashion.

The only poems I'd written previously came out of high school English class, where we wrote sloppy, sophomoric sonnets as we studied Shakespeare. In the following fifteen years, my relationship to writing was mostly centered around performative displays of expertise. It was about Appearing Intelligent to Impress Internet Strangers™ (which, in retrospect, became my primary strategy to feel good about myself). I never even considered writing poetry in those years. What value could it possibly add? Besides, even if I'd wanted to, I didn't believe I could.

But here we are. Since November of last year, I've written close to 100 poems. Most of these, admittedly, were for a girl. I met my muse, and the poetry poured forth. It was romantic, intense, earnest, and kinda silly. But slowly, my poetry evolved from cheesy declarations of love into extended explorations of who I've been and who I'm becoming. It became a place to honor many of the truths, both shameful and beautiful, I'd left unsaid through my life. Day by day, poetry became a new way of inhabiting the world, a way of being in communion with something larger.

I'll be the first to admit I'm not skilled in the craft of poetry. I haven't studied the greats, and have yet to take a course or read any how-to books. Which is unlike me. My normal pattern is to compulsively stock up on instruction when embarking on anything new and vulnerable. With poetry, however, I've been winging it. I just notice each wave of inspiration as it arises, then paddle imperfectly into the creative process.

In France, I'd be out walking along the banks of the Dordogne River, and a phrase, stanza, or metaphor would arrive in me, mostly formed. I don't know where these poetic fragments came from, or why they felt so urgent. But instead of ignoring them, or promising to explore them later, I got in the habit of pulling out my phone and writing whatever wanted to flow through me in the moment. And it worked. I wrote a lot of poems that way, without an ounce of overthinking or perfectionism. It felt like magic.

Somewhere amidst this flurry of writing, in a small gap between the love poems, another idea arrived out of the ether—business poetry. What would it look like if I channeled this inner stream towards my professional life? How might poetry weave itself into my exploration of the larger questions I'm inhabiting? Questions about the essence of true fandom, marketing to regenerate trust, and building joyful internet businesses. Could poetry be a piece of these puzzles? My hunch is that it can.

One of my goals for The Forest is to build a world where there are no easy answers. A world where, the deeper you travel, the more your inherited stories of business, marketing, creativity, and self begin the unravel, leaving you in a liminal zone of possibility, where you get to write the story that comes next. As you wander through its digital wilds, The Forest should destabilize and disorient you, at the same time as it awakens something essential and invites it out to play. Yet another bullshit blog post with 10 tips to grow your email list will never accomplish that. Poetry, on the other hand, might just make this vision of The Forest come alive. Hell, poetry might even help you come alive, much as it did for me.

I wrote my first "business poem" back on December 5th during a long layover at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris. I'd just pulled an all-nighter at another airport in the south of Spain (which is a silly story for another day), and in my sleep deprived, oddly euphoric state, I tapped out a poem titled "coffin" on my phone. It was about how I'd no longer shove myself into the tidy, legible confines of a Personal Brand, and how I wouldn't let the course of my life be determined by "market research." Perhaps it was the sleep deprivation, but it felt momentous. Revelatory. Then I sat on the finished poem for six months. Partly because my life has been chaotic and uncertain. But if we're being honest, I haven't published it yet because I've been scared.

But fuck it, we ball.

Sharing this poem feels uncomfortable as hell, and my inner critic is throwing a tantrum as I type this. It knows I'm no Mary Oliver, no David Whyte, no Ada Limón. "People only want you for your expertise, Hardy!" it shouts. But I know that voice is just trying to keep me safe in its own way. And I've lived by its dictates long enough to know that's not the type of safety I want. Not anymore. The era of playing small is behind us, friends. And the era of business poetry begins today.

A poem