This Lost Shark has always been fascinated by the concept of the Poet’s Breakfast, seeing that the majority of poets I know are not really what you would call ‘morning people’. So I thought it would be interesting to ask people to write about their morning rituals, the importance of place and other such things; to explore the time and space of breakfast through the eyes of many poets.
First up I asked Chris Mansell:
This poet’s breakfast
I’m not very good with food. I don’t pay attention to it much and then, when I do, I desire it with a salacious passion which is – unedifying. Breakfast is not one of the times of peak desire. There are other things that need doing in the morning: looking at the light; wrenching your consciousness from the flights of dreams and back to the solid world. Breaking the continuity of the night is not something that can be done lightly. The day seems an intrusion and it takes a while to get used to the idea. The magpies are carolling and the traffic is going past. Light is filling my bedroom because I leave the curtains open so that I can see the moon and stars from my bed in the night.
The exchange of the deep interiority of the night to the inconvenience of the day has to be carefully negotiated. The depth of consciousness that is the night’s gift can be held for a while, sometimes even taken to the desk. Poems ease the transition. Take one, first thing, on rising.
Breakfast is always solitary and this is the best. People who want to disturb the flow the universe with chatter of any kind are not to be trusted in the morning. I’m polite and certainly not a morning grump. I want the expansiveness of day but the mind of night. My intimates are quiet first thing because they too have learnt the habit of morning reflection. We smile happily at each other and don’t talk. It is calm.
This picture shows where I sit. I’m not sitting there in the picture because I’m taking the photograph (obviously) and I’m ashamed to admit that the book on the table is a book of short stories – not a book of poems, although morning is for poems. I’m likely to give up this position and wander away with a cup of tea into my nearby study and stare into the deep eye of the computer. I’m still unbrushed and ill-fed – where I always intend to do something small before I shower, eat etc although it might be 11 am or 2 pm before hunger sends me rampaging off to eat breakfast at the table, like a grown up.
Of course many days and many mornings are defined by someone else – I have to be here or there at the behest of some organisation or another. Then breakfast is a duty because I know I’ll run out of energy and other people have timetables that don’t allow a natural appetite at 11 am/2 pm. Then I sit with tea and cereal in a comfortable chair and listen to Fran Kelly on ABC radio telling me with her amiable earnestness what is happening in the day. The transition is fast and consciousness becomes thin – as is appropriate for a day spent outside of the study. On these days, I read prose.
Chris Mansell has written six books of poetry and a number of other smaller collections. Recent collections include Love Poems (Kardoorair, 2006), The Fickle Brat (text + audio CD) (Interactive Digital) and Mortifications & Lies which Kardoorair Press published in 2005. Chris Mansell has worked with many writers throughout Australia Council mentorship program as well as teaching writing in both university and non-university settings. A prize-winning poet in her own right, she has won the Queensland Premier’s Award and been short-listed for both the national Book Council Award and the NSW Premier’s Award among other things.