Blog, writing prompts

Tea for Two: Autumn


The first fall drizzle blew into Fayetteville this weekend, and though it wasn’t yet cold enough to kindle the fireplaces, someone in the neighborhood tried. The smoke came wafting down the road and through my open window. There is a gathering up in Autumn, and not of leaves. I smell it in the fires and allspice, in the way people begin practicing the hunker down of winter.

On Saturday I visited one of my favorite local establishments, Arsagas Espresso Café. Arsaga’s is the coffee house of my law school days, the days of red-eye beverages and case fact diagramming. It’s my fall dive, but this Saturday I visited with lighter reading material—the latest edition of Harper’s folded under my arm. I asked the barista whether there might be a tea she would recommend and without hesitation she said, “Lapsang Souchong. It tastes like the weather.” I ordered it and she set the tea to steeping in a small tea pot.

I am a firm believer in giving credit where credit is due, so this next part is very important. Arsaga’s exclusively brews teas from The Republic of Tea. I noted this is as I sat at my table and opened Harper’s to the piece about President Reagan’s Pinko Commie witch hunting spree that started in the 1940s. I took my first sip and, with all due respect to Harper’s, I could not read another word. This tea was bold and smoky, rich and reminiscent of a fall bonfire, of sweater weather, of the semester that I fell in love with my wife-to-be.

This was a moment for a journal, but caught without mine I made due. Harper’s open, I exploited the margins and penned a found poem using some of the words from Seth Rosenfeld’s Reagan piece entitled “The Great Communicator.”

The Great Communicator

Ronald Reagan’s FBI file
(they keep a file on us all, you see)
betrays a commitment to witch burnings
to commie crucifixions.
I am ignorant of these kinds of fires, but
I know the fire that hides in Chinese tea,
that makes memories most realized
return for different seasons.

I apologized under my breath to Mr. Rosenfeld and closed Harper’s. The coffee shop was filled with college students, doe-eyed kids who do not yet know the power of this moment. One day, though, memories of the bygone drizzle will blow in on the Autumn wind. When that happens, when they hearken back, I hope they can say that they discovered a few things that make life worth living.

Today’s found poetry prompt: today’s found poetry prompt may make a few of you head for the hills. Are you willing to sacrifice a good magazine, journal, or book for the cause? Tea (or coffee) in hand, find an article or piece that evokes some poetry, then go for it! Play with the article’s words, add your own, find a poem in the pages and write it out. And, as the theme for the month goes, make sure you include a reference to tea or coffee. For bonus points, take a picture and email it to us at @tspoetry. We’ll retweet it to the world (or at least our followers)!

Now, let’s brew some creativity!

Tweetspeak’s September Tea For Two Prompt

This month’s found poem theme at Tweetspeak is Tea for Twoand we’re using words and phrases from tea (or coffee) related products as the prompt (or if you’d like to participate in today’s prompt, words from a magazine, book, or journal). We’d love you to join with is. How do you participate?

1.  Look through your pantry and grab some tea or coffee packages, or any other tea or coffee related products you may have in your house.

2.  Arrange a found poem containing words from the products (or mark up a magazine as above). Make sure your poems touch on themes of tea or coffee.

3. Tweet your poems to us. Add a #tea42 hashtag so we can find it and maybe share it with the world.

4. If you aren’t a twitter user, leave your found poem here in the comment box.

5.  Each week we’ll share a few of the poems. At the end of the month, we’ll choose a winning poem and ask the winner to record his or her poem to be featured in one of our upcoming Weekly Top 10 Poetic Picks.

Last week, Donna wrote about sadness and loss, how she remembers it in the smell of cardamom tea. She writes:

i cannot bring myself
to even buy the seeds
to brew the tea
in an open saucepan
the way she did,
cardomom seeds swirling
and bursting with aromatic love

and missing her
swells in my throat
with simply the thought
of this fragrant delicious memory

Christine Boldt writes an ironic little piece about the tea featured in today’s post, lapsang souchong. In “Slow Learner,” she muses:

I shall re-microwave yesterday’s tea,
Convince myself that it doesn’t taste flat,
For it’s Lapsang Souchong as fine as can be.
I shall re-microwave yesterday’s tea.
I could make a fresh pot. I have twenty three.
But I’m studying Zen, can’t take time for all that.
I shall re-microwave yesterday’s tea,
Convince myself that it doesn’t taste flat.

Thank you for all your submissions. Now…who’s first this week?

Photo and post by Seth Haines


Purchase The Novelist, by L.L. Barkat now!

Your Comments

11 Comments so far

  1. You wrote a poem with a Sharpie? Now, I’ll have to try that. It may help me be more bold.

  2. Seth says:

    There is definitely no turning back once you start. If you examine the poem closely, you’ll notice a spelling error. Then again, I’d like to play that off as a “play on words,” (hat tip to Lyla), but I’m afraid that would be… um… less than honest.

  3. Donna says:

    Oh now that was lots of fun! Thanks for an awesome prompt. My photo and poem are over on my blog… Sunbeams Trapped

    Thank you so much for featuring my poem, Seth… I was so surprised!

    …and to Christine, really love your poem and the reference to studying Zen (so no time to brew)… it makes me smile every time I see it…

    • Seth Haines says:

      I love the “no time to brew” line, too. I actually know a few timeless Zen studiers.

      And your poem?!? Love it. Glad you marked up the mag and left a picture at your site. It’s awesome!

      • Donna says:

        :) Thank you so much for saying that. It was a fun prompt, Seth. I hope my husband feels the same way about the magazine he hasn’t seen yet ha ha! It’s his, but also mine if it falls under the worldly goods clause.

  4. Tea, No Sympathy

    Bigelow brews up basic black;
    Lipton warms with its touch

    of tart Tuscan lemon. But I see
    these aren’t your cups of tea.

    With them, you get no yin, no
    yang, no sweet and bitter blend

    of Golden Flower, no accents
    of lanky Jasmine Fairy Maidens

    quick to unfold their charms
    in the tallest sipping glasses. You

    tend to trend to gourmet tastes,
    need all the tea in China to brew

    old Harney’s Golden Monkey,
    uncovering leaves’ clearest notes

    of honey to sweeten and loosen
    your Rumi’s tongue. “Take tea

    with me” comes in a silken sachet
    I need not strain to decipher. Oh,

    to get tippy in Assam’s best garden,
    to unwrap your golden Dikom buds

    as I unwind my pearls and purple sari.

  5. L.L. Barkat says:

    Love the poem by Maureen, and it goes along with what I wanted to say to you, Seth. There is something about tea…

    the layers upon layers that it is bringing out in your writing and experience. Nuance. I feel it in your words.

    • Seth Haines says:

      Nuance, indeed.

      It’s been good to think and write (dare I say meditate) on something new. It makes you unpack it in an intentional way. And, with the endless varieties of tea, I could be unpacking for a long long time.


  1. Tea for Two: Autumn (a Tweetspeak prompt) | Seth Haines - September 17, 2012

    [...] Continue reading at Tweetspeak Poetry. Share this:EmailTwitterFacebookStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in Poetry and tagged Tweetspeak Poetry. Bookmark the permalink. ← The Saturdaily: On Social Media (Seth’s List) [...]

  2. Tea, No Sympathy | Best Love Poetry - January 15, 2013

    [...] poem is a reprint from Every Day Poems and was a response to a tea poetry prompt at Tweetspeak Poetry: Tea for Two, Autumn. This entry was posted in Contemporary, Love Poems, Maureen Doallas, Romantic Love Poems, Tea [...]

  3. Seth Haines | Tea for Two: Autumn (a Tweetspeak prompt) - March 8, 2013

    [...] Continue reading at Tweetspeak Poetry. Tags: Tweetspeak Poetry 17 Sep 2012 / 0 Comments in Poetryby sethhaines Related PostsDid you like this entry? Here are a few more posts that might be interesting for you.Related Posts The Surreal Battle of the Beverages (Another Coffee Prompt) Leave a ReplyWant to join the discussion? Feel free to contribute! [...]

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