Have just been checking out a friend’s new poetry blog, which got me wondering about poetic journeys. Yesterday the sun was shining and it was the first good rain-free Sunday we’ve had for a few weeks. P and I did a lovely 2-hour walk along the contour path. I was afraid we might run into some banditos on the mountain so left the camera at home but instead, there were a lot of hikers and a few dogs. Bonnie was in her element swimming in all the mountain streams.
One of my favourite parts of that walk is the stretch with the boardwalk. (Photo by Danie van der Merwe at Flickr).
Then this morning, thinking more broadly about poetic (and inner) journeys, I have a few to share. The first one that springs to mind is Robert Frost’s “two roads diverged in a wood” but it’s not quite the mood I’m looking for. Neither is T.S. Elliot’s Journey of the Magi. It wasn’t a cold coming we had of it at all, it was pleasantly warm. Very interesting poem though (which I’m sure has been well picked-over by Elliot scholars).
One poem leads to another and I land up with Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”. Stevens, who lived in Hartford, Connecticutt, used to walk two miles to work every day composing poems in his head as he went. Here’s an extract:
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendos,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
Then there’s ‘When First I Came Here” by Edward Thomas and “Journey to the Interior” by Margaret Atwood.
When First I Came Hereby Edward Thomas
WHEN first I came here I had hope,
Hope for I knew not what. Fast beat
My heart at the sight of the tall slope
Or grass and yews, as if my feet
Only by scaling its steps of chalk
Would see something no other hill
Ever disclosed. And now I walk
Down it the last time. Never will
My heart beat so again at sight
Of any hill although as fair
And loftier. For infinite
The change, late unperceived, this year,
The twelfth, suddenly, shows me plain.
Hope now,–not health nor cheerfulness,
Since they can come and go again,
As often one brief hour witnesses,–
Just hope has gone forever. Perhaps
I may love other hills yet more
Than this: the future and the maps
Hide something I was waiting for.
One thing I know, that love with chance
And use and time and necessity
Will grow, and louder the heart’s dance
At parting than at meeting be.
Journey to the Interior (Margaret Atwood)
There are similarities
I notice: that the hills
which the eyes make flat as a wall, welded
together, open as I move
to let me through; become
endless as prairies; that the trees
grow spindly, have their roots
often in swamps; that this is a poor country;
that a cliff is not known
as rough except by hand, and is
therefore inaccessible. Mostly
that travel is not the easy going
from point to point, a dotted
line on a map, location
plotted on a square surface
but that I move surrounded by a tangle
of branches, a net of air and alternate
light and dark, at all times;
that there are no destinations
apart from this.
There are differences
of course: the lack of reliable charts;
more important, the distraction of small details:
your shoe among the brambles under the chair
where it shouldn’t be; lucent
white mushrooms and a paring knife
on the kitchen table; a sentence
crossing my path, sodden as a fallen log
I’m sure I passed yesterday
(have l been
walking in circles again?)
but mostly the danger:
many have been here, but only
some have returned safely.
A compass is useless; also
trying to take directions
from the movements of the sun,
which are erratic;
and words here are as pointless
as calling in a vacant wilderness.
Whatever I do I must
keep my head. I know
it is easier for me to lose my way
forever here, than in other landscapes