poetry and prose about place

beet red

with 7 comments

For my next dyeing project, I want to use beets as dyestuff.  Although my writing project is called ‘harvesting colour’, there no beets in my garden and none in the store where I shop.  So I have decided to see what commercially available pickled beets will contribute to my experience of dyeing.


My eagerness to use beets for dyeing is due to the encouragement of a friend of mine.  When I asked her to do an evaluation of my project for artsnb she wrote about how she loves the colour of the water after she cooks beets.  She also said how much fun it would be to keep the ‘ruby red water’ on the windowsill in a jar.  I hope to be able to capture an experience like this in my poetry.




First, I bought a jar of pickled beets.  I read the label carefully, just to make sure there is no artificial colour added to the jar.




Eating the beets is a side-benefit of this project.  The taste reminds me of my Mom’s pickled beets.  I remember her showing me how to boil the beets and how easy it was to slip the skins from the boiled roots.




The beet juice is a bright rosy-red, clear and jewel-like …




For this project, I used a length of my alum-treated wool … I have learned these mechanically-carded lengths of wool are called ‘roving’ …




I had a scary moment when I realised adding the wool to the juice was not the best idea – danger of overflow!!!  Fortunately, the wool absorbed the juice and I had to top it up with water.




Now, again, I have to wait to see the results.  I expect the beet juice to turn the wool red or even pink.  But who knows what colour will emerge?  I will show you the results in about one week’s time.


I spent a while today working on drafts of a poem to accompany my beet-dyed wool.  First, I thought about my friend’s comment about how wasteful it seems to pour the beautiful beet colour down the drain.  Then, I focused on identifying a real-life experience to fit the metaphor.


Since I have been working on my family history lately, I know about lost and wasted memories … I wish so much I had paid better attention when my Mom told me stories about her family.  Sometimes I can remember a snippet, or a name, but the story never seems complete.  Because I didn’t listen carefully to her stories, I wasted her words the way the colour is wasted as it pours down the drain.


Once I think about what I want to express in the poem, I explore the ideas in a rapid-write.  With this first step, I often find the poem begins to take form.  I hand-write several drafts (usually six or seven), refining the poem’s structure and ideas.  After the third or fourth draft, I begin to vary my word choices and ‘press’ on certain words to make them work harder in the poem.  At some point, the form and words of the poem have become clear to me and at that time, I type the draft into the computer.  Once the keyboard takes over from the pen, I concentrate on line length and punctuation.


If this all sounds very mechanical, I will say that I believe the poem found its life in my head, before it ever reached the pen and paper stage.


It will be while before I finish the poem and feel like it is ready to publish.  Like the chemistry occurring in the mason jar of beet juice and wool, my poem will take time and patience.


Copyright  2014   Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

May 2, 2014 at 10:28 pm

7 Responses

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  1. Jane,
    I HOPE you’ve appreciated how nice I’ve been to you lately – notably the withholding of all snide commentary whilst the aura of your guess-poster yet diffused amongst your followers. Well, that’s all over now. You’ll be pleased to know I’m back to my old self. Or at least I was.

    I have two issues (I won’t say from where):
    1- Your title – “Beet Red”. Have you no mercy? After paying my analyst $32,000 over the years to help me forget, you go and choose a title that reminds me of how my older brother used to treat me. Either come up with another designation, or cut me a cheque to help ease my losses.

    2- Your obvious air of superiority from doin’ all of that bike riding: You say that in the process of writing your poetry, you – and I quote – “After the third or fourth draft, I begin to vary my word choices…” Well, well now. Aren’t you the Lucky One, miss Jane? After MY third or fourth draft, I begin to catch a cold.

    And, one more thing. Just because I’ve had 1283 rejections from 37 publishers over the past 53 years, doesn’t mean I couldn’t impart some wisdom to your readers in a ‘guest post’ of my own. Whaddaya say to November 2019? Could you slot me in then?

    PS – Don’t worry, Francis – all Maritimers aren’t like me. Thanks for your writing. I enjoyed it. Do come again.



    May 4, 2014 at 6:31 am

    • Hi Neil. I don’t know what to say. ‘Beet Pink’ sounded like I was making fun of a popular musician. I thought admitting to choosing the wrong word from the start was a statement of humility! And as for rejections, I quit counting after about a thousand! I would be so happy to host you in a guest post. Your very short stories would be perfect and I know my readers would enjoy your humour. Pick a date in November 2014 and get scribbling between garden projects! Jane


      jane tims

      May 4, 2014 at 5:58 pm

  2. the vinegar in those pickled beets should act as a mordant…



    May 3, 2014 at 12:28 am

  3. I can’t wait!



    May 2, 2014 at 10:31 pm

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