An MIT poetry workshop changed Grey Held’s life. Although his business career kept him busy for decades, he has published two books of poetry and recently created an innovative Poetry in the Park project in his Massachusetts hometown.
“The poetry professor was Betsy Sholl, who later became poet laureate of Maine,” says Held, who was an architecture major. “The workshop was intimate—maybe 10 or 12 students—and we’d bring our own poems to read, and Betsy would listen and give feedback. Some of the feedback had to do with craft, yet what I remember most was her knack for helping us find the emotional center of our poems. I really thrived in that environment.”
His Poetry in the Park project is located in Edmands Park, a patch of wild nature in the heart of Newton, Massachusetts, a leafy but dense Boston suburb of 85,000. It consists of 14 poems attached to Depression-era stone pillars, chosen from the many submissions he received from poets across the country.
Not far from the park, Held lives with his wife, Leslie Cocuzzo Held, a freelance costume designer who taught for 27 years in the MIT Theater Arts Department. They have two sons: Zachary, who is finishing up his PhD in neuropsychology at Suffolk University, and Jesse, a compensation consultant in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
Held has worked as director of research and analysis for Lyra Research, which supports the imaging industry, and as international marketing manager for the digital type design firm Bitstream. From 2007 until this past January, he worked at Forrester Research, most recently as the data insights director for top-tier accounts.
“The common denominator between my professional work and my poetry is the writing and the ability to tell a story,” he says. “At Forrester, I managed a consumer data team and coached them on how to tell stories with data. People don’t remember the data—they remember the story you tell about the data.”
After graduating from MIT, Held earned an MFA from Temple University. His first book of poems, Two-Star General, was published in 2012 and his second, Spilled Milk, in 2013. He received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in creative writing and has taught poetry-writing workshops for prisoners.
His current projects include completing a third book of poetry, Workaday, about his experiences in the corporate environment. He is also launching a personal coaching practice to help others make life decisions. You can see more about it at thefocusingcoach.com and read some of his poems at greyheld.com.