Coffee Talk

At a sidewalk café, I eavesdrop on a conversation between poets. Sensible artists on a sensitive topic of writing about family and friends; people who are always wary of misrepresentation, for they know writers can steal lives for fiction.

I hear writers master great dialogue. But this exchange spans hours. One poet claims a poem is not worth losing a relationship over, the other states truth is like poetry. The waitress looks at me and smiles, “Everybody knows poets are extremely gracious and generous.” I think about poetics of politeness.

If I were a poet— I wonder if it’s gracious to invite an artist friend, whose hurtful comment on social media I wrote about, for coffee. Not to ask permission, but to announce publication. Perhaps we’d need something strong to loosen the tongue.

unrhymed poetics;
an acrobatic movement
between two artists

Khaya Ronkainen
Khaya Ronkainen is a writer, poet and creative professional. Her blog focuses on all things poetry and creative nonfiction.


  1. Fascinating. Your post and your haiku have got me thinking very hard about truth, poetry, and real life vs fiction.
    It’s a remarkable poem.

  2. I’m so glad Mariss that this poem got you thinking about real life vs fiction. Because sometimes poetry is taken for nonfiction or the “I” to mean the author rather than the poem speaker. Thank you!

  3. I think a lot of writers bring at least some small bit of themselves to their writing, especially the ones who are pretty good at their craft (even though, as you pointed out in the comments earlier, that is not to say that everything we write is 100% true, LOL or even 10% true). Sometimes that’s the joyous parts, and sometimes it’s the things that drive them crazy. Yeah, I’ve sometimes dealt with people I no longer talk to/ communicate with in less than flattering ways in my writing (and found it quite cathartic). But I would want the chance to talk with the person, if I still valued their friendship or at very least, their opinion. And depending how close we were, I’d talk about wanting to write about it too.

  4. You are so correct Rommy, a lot of writers (me included) bring some parts of themselves to their writing. I’d like to think our imagination is fed by life experiences, whether those experiences are ours or not. It’s a joyous exercise blurring the line between truth and fiction, though this tends to drive readers who prefer things to be black and white crazy.:D

    As for dealing with our hurts or people who do/say mean things, whether intentionally or not, writing is definitely cathartic. Because we can purge those negative emotions, burn the pages afterwards and move on. 🙂 Regarding writing about family and friends, I’ve learned to write my truth without hurting my loved ones. And as you put it, it’s always worth talking to the person concerned about it, if you care about your relationship. BUT, we also should not forget this quote by Anne Lamott, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories…”

  5. If I were to be invited to such a coffee treat as you have pictured here, I’d jump at the chance, no matter the conversation subject matter!!!!
    Seriously, going the extra mile is labor intensive, but worth it as a mark of integrity to those of us who value such things.

  6. You have no idea how I’d love to chat with you in person, over coffee or drink of your choice. Any subject with you would be really interesting. 🙂 I believe integrity in writing is important. Because words have the power to build but also destroy. So, we can’t afford to be vindictive, where real people are concerned…I think.

  7. YAY, this is the best compliment ever! Inviting the reader to the cafe for eavesdropping was my first goal, with this poem. I’m super pleased to hear you felt like you were there. Thank you.

  8. “Perhaps we’d need something strong to loosen the tongue.” (Yep, like whisky) 😜 What an interesting topic and you made a very valid point I never really thought about in such a context. Love your haiku and that delicious duo sitting on your tray in the photo is the bomb my friend! ☕📷🍰

  9. I love these kinds of discussions and reflections and sharing of ideas. Over coffee, of course. But I have rhinoceros skin, so curiosity is usually the motivator. To me, poetry, the really rich stuff, is loaded with emotion and that requires the poet to lay something about themselves bare. There’s always a bit of non-fiction in there. Wonderfully evocative post and poem, Khaya.

  10. First, omg that picture looks DELICIOUS!

    Second, everything about this post is so complex and layered. The questions with no clear answers. The things we all struggle with in relationships, living in this world, as creators. I unapologetically rip my content from reality (mostly my own but not always). I have asked permission… and I have not. Who is the authority on when that is appropriate or acceptable? I could ponder these things (and have) for a long time.

  11. Yep, like whisky. 😀 I’m glad this poem gave you food for thought. Thank you, Kym.

    It’s really lovely to be out and about town: enjoying coffee, people-watching, eavesdropping and especially forget about world problems, for a while.

  12. Oh I agree with you Khaya! 💯 You have to step away from CRAZY for a while, whatever or whoever CRAZY might be! 😜 The problems are going to always be there, but that doesn’t mean we have to be. 👍🏼

  13. Thank you, my friend. I’m so happy to hear you love these discussions. I love them too. Because sometimes there are things I find bothersome, and want to hear how other creatives navigate them. Regarding your rhinoceros skin, I guess you’d have made a great politician, if you didn’t choose to be a writer! 😀 Seriously though, I truly envy your ability to ignore the fluff.

    You also touch on something important, “the poet to lay something about themselves bare.” Somewhere during my studies, I thought “real” poetry is supposed to be brilliant as in mastery of the craft and language, and according to the literary canon. Though that kind of poetry is masterful and praise-worthy, it often does not move me. Because sometimes there’s nothing at stake. Thanks once again for joining the conversation.

  14. Yes, I have the same experience with poetry. Some is full of beautiful imagery or it’s humorous or perfectly crafted, and I enjoy all those things. But it’s the poetry that reveals the wounds that makes me gasp and remember.

  15. Thanks Christina. I don’t often take pics of food, because I want to eat it rather than photograph. 🙂 But I just couldn’t resist taking this one.

    I love and admire that you unapologetically rip your content from reality. It takes bravery to own one’s truth, because more often than not people will have an issue with it. I think asking for permission can be a double-edged sword. I’ve never asked anyone’s permission regarding publishing my writings, but I’ve definitely talked to my close relations about some creative nonfiction work.

    And yes we can ponder these non-stop and come out with no clear cut answers. Perhaps, the question to ask is whose writing it is, anyway!

  16. Truth is like poetry. It’s all in the interpretation. Lovely piece raising complex questions, Khaya. Whiskey is definitely in order.

  17. Whiskey it is, then! 🙂 And yes, truth is life poetry. I heard from somewhere (your blog, probably) that you are working on a book, can’t wait to hear more about it.

Do leave a trace!