In the past few years, I’ve become more interested in food and tea, and I’ve tried my hand at more complex cooking and brewing. When I was a kid, for example, my version of “making tea” was pouring whistling water over a black teabag, and adding cream and sugar. I thought I loved tea and that I knew a lot about it. But I had no idea what tea was made of, where it came from, or that my methodology was crude. It was only recently that I looked into the different types of tea, the locations, the brewers, the ceremonies, and the cultural significances behind the drink (I now understand how little I actually know about it). Each type of tea, whether it be black, pu’er, oolong, green, yellow, white, or even herbal tisanes, are intricately complex and have many diverse forms with different shades, flavors, aromas, colors, and effects.
Where am I going with this? you may ask, and I understand. The point is that I’m realizing how important details are in doing things well. Of course, if I fussed too much over the exact temperature at which I brewed my white tea, I may miss the experience of sensing its aroma and the pleasure of tasting it. So I can’t lose sight of the big picture, certainly. But if I want to cook a dish well, I ought to pay careful attention to the spices involved. I want to brew my tea at the right temperature and for the correct amount of time. I want to pay careful attention to what sounds bother (or delight) my loved ones, so that I can care for them by creating silent spaces, or spaces swelling with the sound of their favorite record. I can turn off the TV, the music, my own voice if it’s too stressful or stimulating. The quality of the food, the tea, and the space all create an emotional response in the person experiencing them, whether positive or negative.
I’ve realized something that should have been clear, that every little detail is important when writing poetry, and if I want to create excellent poetry I ought to pay attention to every small detail in order to create the best poem I can. A number of things were brought up in the last workshop that I hadn’t considered before. One of them was pitch–I didn’t realize that poetry could have pitch, because I thought that words were just words. But when asked to consider pitch, it suddenly came to me in Owen’s poem “Strange Meeting,” and I would like to examine how Owen used pitch and to try to use it myself at some point.
I felt most compelled in considering letter choice, though. I didn’t necessarily think that dwelling on a poem at the word level or even the level of the letter was useful, but exercises we went through in class led me to see how important it is to consider not only what poems say, but how they sound. As we learned in workshop, content and form should be embracing one another, and if I have something to say in a poem I want to say it without saying it, i.e., I want to say it through the form, by creating an emotional response in the reader synonymous with how the speaker is feeling rather than “telling them straight” what’s going on.