At Times Like This, Tea

tea and poetry

I do drink coffee — first thing in the morning. It’s basically an excuse to bitter up my dark chocolate almond milk. If I’m at my dad’s, I’ll have one of his lattes (which are better than anyone else’s anywhere). But after I consume one rather large cup, no more coffee for the rest of the day.

Coffee is about getting up, walking the dogs, working out. After I get the kids to school, I start the tea and the poetry. This fall I bought myself an electric kettle. It doesn’t whistle like the old-fashioned kind, but it’s fast. It gives me just enough time to read a poem or two.

My working/writing day starts with poetry and tea. Both take a bit of time. Water must boil. Tea must steep. I read a poem; if it’s a good one, I read it twice. A really good one gets printed. Once I read a poem by Julia Kasdorf and burst into tears. It was like she had been eavesdropping in my living room.

While I write, I drink tea. I simply do not write without tea. I’m one of those people who pairs tastes with activities: Tea goes with writing, writing starts with poetry. It’s a like a triangle with tea at the top, the left corner as poetry, and the right corner as my regular writing.

I don’t write a poem every day, but I write at least one a week in time for my Tuesday poetry group. We are always going through one book or another, and they all have poetry exercises or prompts. Some days a bad poem is all I can manage. Other days I’ll feel stuck, so I’ll turn to Tweetspeak. (Really, I’m not just sucking up!) I’ll play a little with words. Sometimes the poem fails and turns into prose.

Drinking so much tea makes me stand up a lot, either to make more tea or to go to the bathroom. I often have my best ideas walking from one room to the next. I’ll finish a poem, run to the bathroom, have a bright idea, revise the poem, make more tea, tweak the poem, hit save, let the dogs out, drink more tea, fiddle with the line breaks, let the dogs in, revise the poem, drink more tea. Repeat.

I always bring tea to my poetry group in one of my very nice roadies. On a recent Tuesday, there was only one other woman there. I had brought two poems on tea. After reading them aloud, she said she liked this part of one and that part of the other. A few days later, I combined them. I was drinking Tazo’s Joy blend for the holidays.

At Times Like This, Tea

Forget complicated instructions.

Ignore those who say you must try this you

must do that.

Buy tea that sounds yummy. Brew it.

If you like it sweet, add sweet. If you don’t,

don’t. You are not under surveillance by the tea police

as you top your fine English breakfast with Redi Whip.


People across this blue-green world drink with you.

Breathe flavor. Today — Joy.

In a few minutes, the leaves unfurl

and so do I. The laptop anticipates

my next move.

Most days the tea runs out before the words.

 Photo by Claire Burge, used with permission. Post by Megan Willome


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  1. says

    Delicious. And now, because I am about to write, I do believe I shall make a pot of tea. Thank you, Megan, for the story behind the poem. I love learning the context and your process.

  2. says

    You bring to life the power of ritual for writing. Oh, I love that (even though I can claim no ritual for my own :) )

    Now, as for the poem, this is too fun, including the “ip” rhymes…

    “You are not under surveillance by the tea police/
    as you top your fine English breakfast with Redi Whip./

  3. says

    I’m on lunch at work (which is a time I adore reading your poems) and now am in a conundrum because I want tea. There is a coffee shop downstairs…I wonder if they have tea? A microwave might have to do, but it is cold here–the cold snap has snupped–and tea seems like a good way to warm from the inside out.

  4. says

    Megan, I always love your writing and your poetry. And such a lovely glimpse here into your writing/tea/poetry triangle philosophy! I am personally not a tea-drinker (am I banned?) but rather a coffee snob. My triangle is more like Coffee-Writing-Random Shuffle. Yes, writing goes with music, and that’s all there is to it. And if I can write and drink coffee and have the earbuds on all at once, well, time pretty much stops in its tracks for me.

    • says

      Thank you, Jim.

      I think that whatever triad works for you, works for you. I had a professor who would start every class by reading the writing rituals of various authors. It showed that there are as many ways to write as there are writers.

  5. Jennifer says

    Loved this! I had a cup of green tea today at a new friend’s house as we put together anti-standardized-testing packets of information for Texas legislators. :)

  6. says

    This nearly made me burst into tears. I haven’t written a poem lately (they’re never as good as yours.) I don’t know why. Maybe I’ve been sipping too much coffee and not enough tea.

    I read this twice. And then a third time. I’m going to print it now.

    Oh, and the other day… in the coffee shop, there was a notice that a group of peeps were thinking of forming a monthly poetry group to meet at the library. I tore off one of the clipped slips with the contact email and dropped it into my car’s cupholder. Maybe I should fish it out…


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