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 Reddi Wip.
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 L.L. Barkat. Post by Megan Willome.
“Megan Willome’s The Joy of Poetry is not a long book, but it took me longer to read than I expected, because I kept stopping to savor poems and passages, to make note of books mentioned, and to compare Willome’s journey into poetry to my own. The book is many things. An unpretentious, funny, and poignant memoir. A defense of poetry, a response to literature that has touched her life, and a manual on how to write poetry. It’s also the story of a daughter who loses her mother to cancer. The author links these things into a narrative much like that of a novel. I loved this book. As soon as I finished, I began reading it again.”
—David Lee Garrison, author of Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro