Such a Good Mix: The Poetry of Travel and the Travel of Poetry
|Calico Cats in Morocco's Blue City: Chefchaouen|
I love poetry and I love travel. When the two join together, it feels like my life makes sense. All day I've been thinking about my favorite poems concerning travel for a class I'm teaching this weekend at a beautiful family farm in Bow-Edison, Harmony Fields.
For about 20 years I kept this one poem in my wallet. Then it lived on a bulletin board in my office and recently, it migrated to the kitchen. I like that it's been with me since December 1994. I think this was my first year subscribing to the New Yorker Magazine. I had just let my apartment in Harvard Square for the wilds of the Pacific Northwest for graduate school. I missed the grit of the Boston accent, the cold stare of strangers, the bookstores.
This poem spoke to me --- my decade plus of living faraway in Africa, Europe, and working in the Arab world. More than two years away from the US, I entered New York via JFK only to have the customs officer question if I was making up the country of Niger. He was angry with me for coming from a place he didn't know.
Seamus Heaney never included this in any of his books. I don't know why but I suspect that perhaps it was too internal, so common and uncommon at once. See what you think.
When I answered that I came from “far away”
The policeman at the roadblock snapped “where’s that”?
He’d only half heard what I said and thought
It was the name of some place up the country.
And now it is both where I have been living
And where I left --- a distance still to go
Like starlight that is light years on the go
From faraway and takes light years returning.
~Seamus Heaney, The New Yorker, December 26, 1994