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Poetry Confessions: Tea Time with Flint’s First Poet Laureate Semaj Brown

Poetry and the Pandemic

These days, I am taking my tea black like me, no sugar, and no cream— strong, bitter,steeped in antioxidants, horror, and hope. I abandoned my favorite fruit tea varieties, pear and orange pekoe about two weeks after the pandemic began seizing the lives of my friends. No more raspberry zinger once my husband/physician joined the frontline. Every sip of black tea became an essential part of my morning, marking dawn, distinguishing it from dusk as the hours in isolation poured into one another, and my world like an hour glass turned upside down, around and around.  I watched the steam rise from its vessel of containment, a china cup withworn gold rim and wondered about our exoneration from the grip of COVID 19.  When would we rise? When would the deaths stop?

I turned to poetry, but poetry turned me down. Paralyzed, I could not write, not yet. But, I was Flint’s First Poet Laureate. Surely, I had something meaningful to impart. If I did, it was stuck in the imagination parlor probably enjoying a cup of tea.  I wondered was the poem-in-waiting a public or private poem. That is the way with poetry. Sometimes thoughts scribbled on a note pad will morph into poems that are just for you, just for you, beloved Flint. Your thoughts jotted down become steam rising— words escaping your mind chamber where anguish is a double boiler. Because writing, journaling, word composition in song or rap or poem is a well-documented instrument of wellness, I am recommending poetry writing as a lever for release during this time of upheaval.

Begin, by allowing a word to drop from your swollen brainlike hot molasses, like slow freedommoving on to and across the page. Then observe yourself as another thought follows, tumbling and splattering meaning over the once blank canvas. Soon, consciousness is streaming, releasingpressure. Your mind is made liquid. A vacuum forms-and hope floods into this newly created space. This process of poem making, poem healing can be transformative.

Write it down! Write it out! If you decide to share, I would love to read, and with the advent of all this writing and healing, I may even return to a lighter blend of tea; blue strawberry, perhaps. I invite you to join me.

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