Hello, Poetry Friend
My theme here on Substack and on my website is red teacups because I drink a lot, a lot of tea. But I only started thinking about the link between tea and tragedy when I went to Titanic Belfast museum in 2012, for the 100th anniversary of the sinking of infamous ocean liner.
The gift shop sells Punjana Titanic Tea, blended for Thompson’s Family Teas. Thompson’s purchased Punjana Limited, which originated in Belfast in 1888. This particular tea is what was known as “builder’s tea,” the kind workers lived on, along with toast. Tens of thousands of cups of Thompson’s Punjana brand tea are consumed every hour, worldwide. Sometimes the sippers are in the midst of tragedy.
It can take time to write what needs to be written. Sometimes we need to take our teaspoon and turn it over and over and over, writing the poem in different ways, until it’s ready.
We have an idea. We write it out. The tea settles. Time again for the spoon, to stir and turn some more.
This is all the more true when we are writing about tragedy. We may need several spoons. We may need a lot of time. We will see a tragedy differently a year later. If we were to live a century after our losses, we would see them differently still.
What surprised me and made me re-evaluate my own tragedies was seeing how boldly Belfast owned its worst hour. No shrinking, no apologizing. They chose to honor the grand vision that was the construction of the ship and also to memorialize the dead. They owned their pain.
I realized I could too. And so can you.
To get you started, take six minutes and listen to Sarah Kay read “Titanic” by Laura Lamb Brown-Lavoie. It’s about sinking and rising, with sage advice from a bearded lady, two miles under water.
“She’s a straight-talker, the Titanic.”
“Be a writer.”
Listen to the “Titanic” poem as you consider what tragedy you need to write about.
Jot down what you notice, what you like, what you don’t, what questions you have, and at least one way in which the poem speaks to your soul.
Listen to the poem again. If your tragedy spoke to you, what would it say? Describe the tone of its voice. How is it dressed?
Write your own poem about tragedy. If you like, email me what you write.
Take care, Megan
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Thank you for this. And for the link to the recording—a powerful way to hear the poem.