The Ingredient – Writing Prompt
In the poem I’m sharing today, titled “The Ingredient,” you will see that “some photographs have it. Some photographs do not.” I discovered this poem ages ago via Anthony Wilson’s blog, Lifesaving Poems, and have it dog eared in the book of the same name.
What is the ingredient? Well, it’s a bit elusive then, isn’t it. Who gets to say what has it and what doesn’t? Is the ingredient in the eye of the beholder?
When I’m editing my photos, a lot of them end in the rubbish bin straight away. These are the photos I’m very certain don’t have it. The ones left might have it. Or at least sort of have it. They at least yearn to have that magic ingredient.
by Martin Stannard
Teacups have it.
I don’t know why teacups have it,
but teacups do.
Horses turned out into a cold field have it,
as do the smouldering remains of a bonfire.
Mugs do not have it. That’s a certainty.
Sacks of coal at the back gate have it,
and jig-saw puzzles have it,
and a river meandering through life has it.
A canal seems to have it, but it hasn’t.
A bike has it, if it is a very very old bike.
Coloured pencils have it.
Leg irons are said to have it, but that’s a joke,
and a very cruel joke at that.
This hasn’t got it, but neither has a bottle of turps.
A Del Shannon 45 on the London label has it,
although a compilation LP of his Greatest Hits
doesn’t have it even though it’s tried really hard.
Ham salad has it.
Or rather, ham salad can have it but it doesn’t always.
Leather gauntlets have it, if they are brown leather gauntlets.
Discarded silk at the foot of the bed doesn’t have it,
although sometimes it’s worth pretending that it does.
Night has it, if it has been snowing.
The sea has it, even though it is saddened by oil,
and I am happy to live by the sea.
Aircraft do not have it.
Parks used to have it, but most have lost it
and are unlikely to regain that which has been squandered.
But ducks and swans have it. Especially swans.
And certain dreams have it.
Not all dreams, but certain dreams.
Some photographs have it.
Some photographs do not.
You do not have it, but not having it is not everything.
I rarely have it, and even when I do
it seems as if I am not quite myself.
Perhaps this explains how come teacups have it
and mugs do not.
Your writing prompt is to write a list of things that have it and things that don’t. You might include things that could possibly have it. For example:
_____________ has it, but ___________ usually does not.
The macarons in these photos are from The Bon Ton Bakery. And they definitely had it. Macarons in general have it, but oatmeal cookies do not.
In his post, Anthony Wilson says of the poem:
“I can’t define my experience of ‘The Ingredient’ (and countless of Martin’s other poems), except to say that I love being and living while I am reading and experiencing it. The pleasure pulses through my veins, you might say. It makes me smile, even though I will go to my grave knowing no more of why teacups have it and mugs do not.”
I think this is one of the reasons we read poems, that feeling of getting and not getting something both at the same time. The way they potentially make us feel happy and alive.