A Poem: Myth and “Death by Project Management Webinar”

There’s something very contemporary about Emily Scudder’s wonderful poem “Death by Project Management Webinar.” Like too many people in the U.S. today, I’m spending hours on Zoom meeting discussing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on everything from the university finances to curriculum changes. Anyone who has endured a similar meeting will certainly find that Scudder’s poem resonates (as apparently it has with her colleagues at Harvard!). 

The final lines of the poem evokes Joseph Campbell’s work and the scholar’s conversations with Bill Moyers in 1988 documentary, The Power of Myth. With the recent passing of Campbell’s partner, the dancer Jean Erdman, whose work often found inspiration in Campbell’s work, likewise reminds us that the mythic often emerges from swirling, diaphanous, dreamlike states.

Anyone who has spent a day in Zoom meetings can surely relate. 

If you’d like to read the rest of this issue of North Dakota Quarterlyyou can download it here for free. There’s no catch. You can also read more for this issue by clicking here.

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Remember that NDQ relies on our outstanding contributors, editors, and subscribers to thrive. Currently, we’re accepting submission in nonfiction and poetry and we’re always reading fiction. These days are rough for many cultural institutions, publishers, and little magazines. If you can, consider buying a book from a small press, subscribing to a literary journal, or otherwise supporting the arts.

Death by Project Management Webinar

Agile. Adaptive. Accelerated Change.
A timeline of forward progress.

The pleasant-voiced female
Host proclaims: New and exciting
Transformations. She seems friendly.
Midwest. She told us her name.
I forgot it right away. Her disembodied
Voice welcomes us to conference room 021.
The zero. A bad omen. The basement. No sun.

The pleasant voice informs: Teams are called
Scrums. Scrum masters lead rituals. Now
I perk up. It’s a cult. A coed business casual
Rugby team with live action role-playing tossed in.
I open my laptop. Begin to take notes.
I wonder if on Fridays they scrum-shuffle
Down carpeted hallways, link strong young
Hands around waists. Gripped. Eager to sacrifice.

I wonder what Joseph Campbell would say?
It’s the Power of Myth. Version 2019.


Emily Scudder is the author of Feeding Time (Pecan Grove Press), and two chapbooks, Natural Instincts and A Change of Pace (Finishing Line Press). Her poems have appeared in Harvard Review, Agni, Salamander, New Letters, and other publications. Visit her at https://www.emilyscudderpoetry.com/.

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