I wish our Jewish friends a Hanukkah filled with light and peace, and
I wish a blessed Advent season to our readers who observe it. This is the
time of year when we think about love and light and miracles; a time
when we celebrate families and friendships; a time when the word
“peace” is often spoken. This is a time of year when we travel
inward and outward spiritually. We think history, of others, and
those who are in need. We live in troubled and challenging times, but
the spirit of hope is a constant we can all embrace.
I wish you all the best blessings of this special time of year!
this beginning of Hanukah and of Advent, I’m happy to share a
wonderful prompt that my friend and fellow poet Nancy Lubarsky has
written for us.
Nancy has been an educator for over 35 years. A retired school
superintendent, she holds a
Doctorate in English Education from Rutgers University. Nancy has
been published in various journals, including Edison Literary Review,
Lips, Poetry Nook, Poetica, Tiferet, Exit 13, Stillwater Review, Howl
of Sorrow Anthology, Paterson Literary Review, Poetry Nook, Great
Falls/Passaic River Anthology, and US1 Worksheets. Nancy received
honorable mention in the 2014 and 2016 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards,
and Editor’s Choice in 2017. She has also been nominated twice for
the Pushcart prize. She is the author of two books: Tattoos
(Finishing Line Press) and The Only Proof (Kelsay Press, a Division
of Aldrich Books).
Poems by Nancy
is over. Did you get to travel anywhere? Some of us, despite the
pandemic, have managed to squeeze out travel, whether by car, by mass
transit, or by plane. Maybe your reasons were to just get away,
travel for work or to visit someone after far too long. Or perhaps
you’ve been cooped up all these months and you keep reflecting on
places you’ve been years ago, who you were with, and what it all
means to you. (Perhaps your trips have been more utilitarian – to
the grocery store or the doctor, no matter.)
is such a rich subject for poetry. It’s a unique way to
memorialize where you’ve been. Besides just taking photographs,
you can create word pictures of your travels. Travel poems have been
written from a variety of perspectives: some focus on the journey,
some on the destination, some focus on someone the writer has
encountered along the way, some focus on an object, a place or a
souvenir that triggers great meaning or memory.
follows are some excerpts from travel poems (in loose categories with
lots of overlap) from some well-known and lesser-known poets
(including a few I’ve written) with a brief introduction, just to
give you some ideas and or inspiration. Except where noted, if there
is an ellipsis, the complete poems are contained in the links at the
end of this blog.
getting there is as interesting than being there. Rita Dove is
at the airport observing people as she waits to board. Bob Hickok
describes his experience on a Greyhound bus. My poem is about a car
trip where my family passed right by our destination!
I love the hour before takeoff,
stretch of no time, no home
the gray vinyl seats linked like
paper dolls. Soon we shall
summoned to the gate, soon enough
be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
perforated stubs—but for now
can look at these ragtag nuclear families
their cooing and bickering
the heeled bachelorette trying
ignore a baby’s wail and the baby’s
mother waiting to be called up early
the athlete, one monstrous hand
on his duffel bag, listens,
like a seal trained for the plunge…
few hours after Des Moines
wasn't the adventure it sounds.
sat with a man whose tattoos
more than I did.
played Hendrix on mouth guitar.
Electric Ladyland lips
if pitch and melody
the rudiments of music,
a body nostalgic
the touch of adored sound.
a smaller thing on a bus…
Just Passed the Red Apple Rest
Red Apple Rest finally rested in
The New York Thruway killed it.
stopped going to the Catskills.
summer, when I was little, we
my aunt’s Monticello bungalow
truthfully, it’s a blur. The Red Apple
is all I remember. Each roadside
strategically placed with a
apple and decreasing numbers,
led us there on our journey along Route
We didn’t have to annoy my parents
we there yet?
25 miles to the Red
Rest, 22 miles, and then 15, 5, 1 mile,
feet … Inside the car, our family had a
focus, a midway point, a distraction from
long ride. The Red Apple was the perfect
to stop, but we never did…
Along for the Ride
people you meet along the way can impact the way you experience a
place. In Major Jackson’s poem he describes his meeting with the
poet Mark Strand at a café in Italy. In my poem, I focus on my
experience at a synagogue in Cuba where I encountered a different man
canopies of green, unionists marched doggedly
Embassy. Their din was no match
light lancing through leaves of madrone trees
lining the Paseo
then flashing off glossy black Maybachs
round a plaza like a monarch fleeing the paparazzi.
skipped and paused like a pencil.
Layers of morning pastries
then fell, soft as vowels, on a china plate. One
to cherish the wizened reserve of old world manners,
blotched hands making wings of a daily paper
beside us between
sips of café con leche, a demeanor
in short gentle as grand
edifices along this boulevard…
The turquoise convertible, with the 1950’s
flair, drops us at a broken sidewalk in front
of El Patronato. Through locked metal gates
we see the paneled doors carved with the
twelve tribes of Israel. Years before, fifteen
thousand Cuban Jews caught whiff of a new
dictator, another upheaval. Most paddled or
flew to seek asylum. Those who remained
stayed silent. Left with nothing but their
birthright, they whispered it to their
opens the gate, welcomes us. He is
bald, clean shaven, no army fatigues. Born
and raised in Havana, he maintains this
sanctuary with meager resources, waits for
rabbi to circle back every few months…
your journey is anchored to a special food, an object or an animal.
In these poems Charlie Smith remembers a stuffed pastry (called a
Crostata) in Italy, Laura Tohe stole a blue Impala in Arizona, and
Tom Plante remembers a particular bird in Costa Rica.
rome I got down among the weeds and tiny perfumed
like eyeballs dabbed in blood and the big ruins
it my way pal while
offering show biz solutions and well the vatican
its interests the palm trees like singular affidavits
wind succinct and the mountains painted blue
before dawn accelerated at the last point
departure before the big illuminated structures
up from the basement got going and I ate crostatas
breakfast and on the terrace chatted
the clay-faced old man next door and said I was
a woman who’d left me years ago and he said lord aren’t we all.
time I stole a blue Impala in Flagstaff
first year they made those automatic windows, you know?
was sixteen and I was cruising down the highway
on the trail to Albuquerque
and I was howling, man.
was like stealing the best horse in the herd.
That (complete poem)
asked the poet
his inspiration comes from.
hand reached up and he made a fist
if he were trying to snatch an annoying gnat.
reminded me of being asked
I’d written any Costa Rica poems.
stayed there for a week, ten degrees north of the equator.
I’ll know in a few years, I said.
small yellow bird that enjoyed our deck at dawn
me to write but wouldn’t say its name.
I find out what it’s called, I’ll know
than I did before. It’s not a swallow,
a lark, not a vulture. It woke me at 5 a.m.
taught me to love the dawn. For that I’m grateful.
memories of childhood vacations or trips with family (even day trips)
are rich sources for reflection and writing. Richard Blanco revisits
the Gulf Motel in Florida and it brings back such clear memories. My
poem takes me back to one particular ride at an amusement park.
for the Gulf Motel
mother should still be in the kitchenette
The Gulf Motel, her daisy sandals from Kmart
across the linoleum, still gorgeous
her teal swimsuit and amber earrings
a pot of arroz-con-pollo,
onion powder and dollops of tomato sauce.
father should still be in a terrycloth jacket
clinking a glass of amber whiskey
the sunset at the Gulf Motel, watching us
into the pool, two boys he'll never see
into men who will be proud of him…
guide stayed upright as he talked.
made it look easy. But people began
slip. We held onto the rail. My parents
to stay balanced. I
much about Freedomland, an
park in the Bronx. My parents
well off. They had health issues.
rarely went anywhere. But we went to
every year for the five years
can be a great source of humor. Read how Bob Rosenbloom compares his
view of the Grand Canyon to a thick deli sandwich. Billy Collins
shares his stories about his travels by telling you why he is so
happy to stay home.
I went sight-seeing, I couldn’t
over how much the eroded rock
like layers of corned beef
pastrami, the redder rock, the meat,
paler, in-between, outcroppings,
of fat my mother made a point
asking me to ask the guys at the deli counter
cut. It should never have been an issue.
they did. Other times, they didn’t.
mother would let me know how I did each trip…
agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
grasping the meaning of every road sign and billboard
all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.
are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or
tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand
around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon’s
little bed on Elba,
or view the bones of a saint under glass.
better to command the simple precinct of home
dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in
phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a
hungry, one-eyed camera
eager to eat the world one
monument at a time?...
it’s your turn to write your travel poem. See if the following
prompts can help:
did you hate about travel? Can you use Billy Collins’s poem as a
model and describe why you won’t ever travel again through the
places you’ve been.
those of you who’ve been cooped up for the past few years, think
about when you did final venture out. What was that like? Can you
capture your fear or trepidation, your relief that you were finally
“on the road”? What object, person or experience most captures
all of your poems, pay attention to the words that these poets use
to describe their travels. In so many of them, they bring us to the
seat right next to them, experiencing what they experienced with
rich description and sensory detail.
you can start out trying to model one of the above poems, or use one
of the themes in these poems as a springboard to write your own.
in Their Entirety:
Thank you, Nancy!