On Tea, Art as Therapy, and Creative Writing

In May 2023, Paper Cranes (the poetry collective that I run in Nottinghamshire) worked with the National Justice Museum, responding creatively to an art ehibition from the group C2C Social Action.

C2C worked with local visual artists and women in vulnerable situations (including those with experience of the criminal justice system, survivors of domestic violence, or folks with addiction issues) to produce artworks inspired by nature.

The project lab exhibition space at NJM showcased the artworks created, as well as a tea apothecary, celebrating local wild flora and its positive impact on human well-being. 

As part of the Paper Cranes writing workshop, we all wrote poems about the restorative power of tea. Each poet then wrote their favourite line from their poems on to a neon sticky note, and I arranged the lines into a collaborative poem. The final piece was published by the museum as part of Green Hustle 2023 programme. 

The Tea Apothecary 

Tea tastes of tears. My eyes are circles
swimming in tea. Ritualised grief, 
served with a baked biscuit smile – 
ready to be dunked.

It’s warm and wet. Cold hands encircling 
the radiating china. Pinch a couple of 
purple, dead nettles. Topping up 
old conversations and cups. 

Tales of disaster dissolved in gulps of tea.
Teacup catching tears. Many voices 
far and near, swelling and fading, resurging.
Water bubbles, kettled of charcoal. 

A toxic yet cleansing aroma. Bruised and scalded.
Dry your tears. Let’s put some brandy in. 
No brandy? Let’s pour in half a bottle of sherry!
There, that’s better. 

The taste was fine – tea plants green-leaved 
shining pearls, an open sea of shiny lime green,
rolling and swaying in the breeze.
Yorkshire tea does not mind its Ps and Qs.

After a while, my relationship with tea developed:
afternoons spent leisurely pouring and repairing.
Me, tea, biscuity – it stamps bold tannin on my tongue. 
Not for me a dark black leaf brew 

but a fresh, light, and cheery one with morning dew.
The taste of mornings under the sun,
of longing to leave, of longing to return.
The day hasn’t started until I’ve had tea.

The day hasn’t finished until it’s hugged me to sleep.
Pouring the end of the day into cups that we sip
Come in and have a cup of tea. 
I’ll put the kettle on. 

Paper Cranes hard at work, producing poetry!

Thank you to Andrea, David H, Dave W, Edwina, Gail, Jade, Kate J, Katey L, Margaret, Nova, Rosa, Sonya, Sue A, and Sue M, for contributing to this poem: 


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