The Great Poem Series: Nin Andrews’ “The Art of Drinking Tea”

“The Art of Drinking Tea” by Nin Andrews was published in February of 2013 and appeared in The Best American Poetry’s 2013 volume. The poem is about a man who has been alone for a long time and feels he is just a shell of what he once was. I guess because of loneliness He decided to become a buddhist and learn the art of drinking tea from a “black haired woman.” The message of this poem

There are many aspects of the poem that make it great, starting with Andrews unique style. Andrews has a perfect blend of confusion and understanding that it keeps the reader invested in every line. “She is one of the few on earth who only drinks tea when she drinks tea.” To be honest, I have no idea what that means but it doesn’t bother me, it amuses me. “He takes up wearing a black suit and hat and studying Zen Buddhism with a black-haired woman who has mastered the art of drinking tea.” I really like the backstory on this guy, it’s just as confusing and interesting as the rest of the poem. The confusion helps make the poem great because it leaves plenty of room for interpretation. A great poem is one that you could spend hours dissecting and defining and hours could be spent on this one.

I found this poem to be very funny, especially when the man attempts to really experience the drinking of tea, “The man closes his eyes and tries to fully experience the drinking of tea. But he always fails. Instead he dreams of the black-haired woman as an unrobed woman who only makes love when she makes love.” While some woman would find this to be scummy, as a man this is just relatable. Even though Andrews is a girl I really like how she shows an understanding of how men tend to think. I also enjoy the Irony of the situation. The man meets the black haired woman to attain zen through the drinking of tea but always fails because he starts thinking about having sex with the woman. In the end however, he ends attaining zen through sex with the black haired woman, “a one night stand lasts 49 days and nights. In the end there is no woman, no tea, no man. Just thinking of it, he barely remembers his own name. In this way he attains enlightenment.”

Personally I’m not one to be excited about a poem but this piece by Nin Andrews is an absolute masterpiece in my eyes. I can vouch that this is truly a great poem and I’m hopeful that you will pick up a copy of The Best American Poetry 2013 and read it today.

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