I recently put together the video below, based on Nic Sebastian’s reading of my poem “The Trains”—a poem that goes back to a childhood time that, for me, continues to inform the present.
Thinking about trains “transported” me into thoughts about the different ways we travel (in our daily lives to and from work or school, to and from the grocery store, etc.), the ways in which we travel for recreation and education, and the metaphorical travels we take. “Travel,” more than just getting from one place to another, connects us to other people, to other cultures, and can engage us in the art of adventure.
For this prompt, let’s think about how we “travel” and write related poems.
1. Think about all the ways we get to where we want to go—actual modes of transportation: horses, cars, trucks, trains, subways, boats, planes, bicycles, mopeds, motorcycles, trams, baby carriages, elevators, hay wagons, monorails, wheelchairs, ziplines. Make a list of types of transport that you’ve used. Which of these conjure up especially memorable times. Select one to write about.
2. Today, we have various modes of transport that we, perhaps, take for granted. Imagine what life would be like without one or more of them.
3. How is “travel” a metaphor for a time, place, or experience in your life? Or, how is a particular form of transport a metaphor for something in your life?
4. What’s your favorite type of transportation?
5. What’s your best travel memory?
6. Is there a funny travel experience in your life?
7. Have you ever been in a situation in which you felt emotionally “transported” to another time or place?
8. Think about time travel (what it means to journey through imagination, a time machine, or a wormhole).
9. Consider this T. S. Eliot quotation, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” Can you relate Eliot’s words to a travel or transportation experience in your life?
10. Think about this quote from Buddha: “It is better to travel well than to arrive.” What does this mean or suggest to you? Can you apply it to a personal experience?
1. Don’t explain everything. Leave room for the reader to enter and be part of your poem.
2. Avoid clichés and the ordinary. Create images that are unique (and don’t be afraid to be different, take chances, experiment).
3. Because this poem is about travel, find ways to evoke a sense of movement in your poem. (Think in terms of language, form, and meter/sound—try to create a regular meter or metrical pattern for your poem.)
4. Use details sparingly—too many details can spoil an otherwise good poem. Don’t allow your poem to become cluttered with minutia. Too many details can make a poem feel claustrophobic.
5. Only include what’s essential. You know the old adage—if a poem only contains five good lines, then the poem should be five lines long.
6. Read your poem out loud and listen to how it sounds, then edit (tweak and refine).