The Wisdom of a Teacup

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The Wisdom of a Teacup

What does a teacup know?

One fine dress is all you need.
Waiting gives you time to dream.
You are your best company.

What does a teacup know?

A steaming cup draws people in,
slows down time, and warms a chill.
Those well-loved bear a well-loved chip.


I’ve been enjoying this month’s celebration at Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’ Today’s Little Ditty. Each month Michelle invites a poet to give the rest of the poetry-writing community a challenge. In early January Joyce Sidman invited the writing of “deeper wisdom” poems, modeled after her beautiful example, “What Do the Trees Know?” Many writers have already accepted the challenge and written wonderfully about snow, wind, seeds, stars, even hens.

I thought I’d give it a try too, but I wanted to go in a different direction and explore something less grand and less natural. Perhaps because I spend the winter holding one, I went with teacup. I’m not that happy with the outcome (I’m ambivalent about the slant rhymes and the meter of the last line and the general level of abstraction.) but I did find myself saying to my daughter, “I know that because I’m a teacup,” which we both found absurdly hilarious. So, in honor of this poem, I’d like to propose a teacup toast to all those poems that don’t work out quite as well as we hoped they would.

For more Poetry Friday wisdom, visit Tara at A Teaching Life.

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Look what’s in my saucer! These belonged to my husband’s grandmother. Aren’t they wonderful?

36 replies
    • Liz Steinglass says:

      I agonized horribly over that last line, and though I don’t love the meter, I can’t seem to part with it.

  1. Heidi says:

    I know what you mean, Liz, and yet the too-perfect poem may not inspire as much loyalty as the one that carries its chips gracefully. I’ve written about a kitchen object too–sent it to Michelle just now.

    What about “own” before “best company”?

    • Liz Steinglass says:

      Well, that’s a very lovely reassurance. I will listen to you and the wise teacup. I think I went back and forth with “own,” putting it in, taking it out. I’ll reconsider. Again. Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Holly Mueller says:

    What a beautiful teacup and saucer and celebration of the imperfect. I love this idea, “What does a _______know?” I may have to try that out and introduce it to students!

    • Liz Steinglass says:

      Holly, be sure to follow the links so you can see Joyce Sidman’s example and all the other deep wisdom poems. They are really quite wonderful.

    • Liz Steinglass says:

      Thanks, Rosi. When you have a chance, give it a try. I enjoyed imagining I was a teacup and all I might have learned.

    • Liz Steinglass says:

      Did you hear the story on NPR about the relationship between boredom and creativity and how we’re rarely bored any more because we’re always so quick to pull out our cell phones?

  3. Tabatha says:

    What a neat saucer! I like Heidi’s suggestion. I love your topic, Liz, your charming poem, and that you said “I know that because I’m a teacup”!

    • Liz Steinglass says:

      Thanks, Tabatha. That line makes me think of a way into a poem like this–introduce yourself to a partner as your object, talk about your day, and what you’ve learned about the world. I think that could lead to some pretty funny conversations.

  4. Brenda Davis Harsham says:

    What a delicious rumination. I hope you don’t mind if I was inspired to add a stanza. What does the teacup know?/ Secrets the tealeaves whisper/ future peril before it unfolds/ it yearns to reveal, but can only conceal./ Isn’t it better we don’t know?

  5. Keri Collins Lewis says:

    Hi Liz! I agonized while attempting my poem for the challenge too. You’re not alone! I’ve never seen a teacup/saucer quite like that one, what a fun hint at your husband’s grandmother’s personality! Thank you for sharing your work even if you think it’s not perfect. It’s the process that counts (and encourages me!)

    • Liz Steinglass says:

      Thanks Keri, I do think it’s important that we acknowledge the bumps in the road. It can be so tempting to imagine that the process is somehow easy for everyone else!

  6. Linda Baie says:

    I’ve been fussing over a line in one of these poems, too, Liz. I love the content, but can’t make it all work. I love your ideas about teacups. With Mary Lee’s potato chips & now yours, I am inspired to try some “other” kinds of ideas.

    • Liz Steinglass says:

      I think if I was starting from scratch, I’d skip the rhyme. I look forward to seeing your “other” idea.

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