There are two things in this life that I hold in highest regard, and those are 1) literature, poetry, or anything having to do with writing and 2) travel. And while a travel blog such as this fundamentally combines the two, I thought why not take it a step further, if just for one post.
Thus was born the list I present to you here, a collection of writers and their evergreen words on traveling and taking in new experiences, sure to inspire you to hit the road or book your next flight immediately (no money-back guarantees on that claim, though).
In no particular order, here are 11 travel-themed poems and their wise authors, along with informational soundbites for each:
1. The Road Not Taken — Robert Frost (1916)
We start with an obvious one: Robert Frost's most well-known poem, "The Road Not Taken". "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..." begins this famous piece, which is more about life decisions than travel, yes, but we're all traveling down that road called life, aren't we? (Call the Cliché Police immediately, please.)
2. The Men That Don't Fit in — Robert W. Service (1911)
I don't remember where I first came across this one, but "The Men That Don't Fit In" is basically the Allman Brothers Band's "Ramblin' Man" in poem version — albeit written many, many years before that song came out. I only caught the opening stanza of the poem the first time I encountered it, but I think these lines in the second stanza stick out: "If they just went straight they might go far;/ they are strong and brave and true;/ but they're always tired of the things that are,/ and they want the strange and new."
3. Hearthside — Dorothy Parker (1926)
In "Hearthside", Ms. Parker paints a picture of an individual sitting by the fireside, deep in reveries about the places they have either traveled or wish they would have traveled to, mentioning "Cathay", an alternative name for China in English, and Sappho, a Greek poet from the island of Lesbos, along the way.
4. If You Get There Before I Do — Dick Allen (2003)
Maybe it's just because Allen mentions Vermont a couple times, but "If You Get There Before I Do" makes me think of renting out a cabin somewhere in the woods in New England, an act that I am certainly no stranger to.
5. Travel — Robert Louis Stevenson (1885)
There is perhaps no better way of telling readers your poem is about traveling than by titling it "Travel". The simplicity of the name probably had something to do with the fact that this Stevenson poem appeared in a collection of his poetry called A Child's Garden of Verses (though the Wikipedias tell me the original name of the collection was Penny Whistles) and each piece is said to have been written in the voice of a child.
6. Window — Carl Sandburg (1916)
Short, sweet, and to the point are terms that would accurately describe this Carl Sandburg poem about riding on a train at night. "Window", with its all of three lines, is basically a haiku, if you throw out the traditional syllabic rules.
7. Vacation — Rita Dove (1994)
Don't you just love those precious minutes spent sitting in the seats near the gate agent's desk, waiting to board the plane? Rita sure does in her poem "Vacation", which, if I had to take a guess, was probably written in an airport terminal while she was waiting to board her flight.
8. Go Greyhound — Bob Hicok (2004)
Another in-transit kind of piece, Hicok's "Go Greyhound" invariably details the narrator's time spent on what we can presume to be a Greyhound bus, as he (or she) partakes in a healthy dose of people watching while riding from at least Iowa to Arizona. Hicok manages to speak about the not-so-pleasant aspects of the trip in a semi-delightful sort of way, diving straight in with the first stanza: "A few hours after Des Moines/ the toilet overflowed."
9. Window Seat: Providence to New York City — Jacqueline Osherow (2012)
As the title would suggest, Osherow's "Window Seat: Providence to New York City" finds its subject seated on a train, taking in the views that lay outside her window. This fast-paced, one-sentence, sixty-line-plus poem primarily focuses on the narrator's documentation of the many egrets she's spotted while on her journey, contrasting them against the landscapes she's spied them occupying.
10. Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles – Sally Wen Mao (2012)
According to the author's website, "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles" was inspired by a long trip she took in 2012 which included a stop in Singapore. "In Lijiang, the sign outside your hostel/ glares: Ride alone, ride alone, ride/ alone – it taunts you for the mileage/ of your solitude," the poem begins, painting a somewhat lonesome picture, which traveling can sometimes be.
11. Return to Florence — Cyrus Cassells (2014)
I read Cyrus' "Return to Florence" and it calls to mind my studying abroad days, trips to Argentina, China, and Israel and Jordan. Why? Well, because he writes about returning to his "old classroom terrace" and taking in the view of the "...timeless, sun-laved/ Basilica of Santo Spirito," and those words just seem to have a way of conjuring up my own memories of time overseas.