Hoping to inspire you, dear reader, on your journey and beyond.
For as long as there have been travelers, so too have there been poets. Poetry is the language of traveling like love is the language of the heart; it’s a language that’s universally understood and requires no translation. Each poem below is imbued with a sense of impermanence and sober, and often revealing, introspection by the poet, marked by familiar tropes we often associate with the ephemeral nature of traveling (i.e. trains, planes, hostels, open road, loneliness, self-awareness, discovery).
It’s been almost three years since we published our first collection of travel poems from some of the world’s best-known poets. After receiving such overwhelming response from readers, we’ve decided to put together a second volume of collected poems – from Nobel laureates to Pulitzer Prize winners, to literary masters and burgeoning talents – hoping to inspire you, dear reader, on your journey and beyond.
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Song of the Open Road, IV
The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it
is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road, the gay fresh sentiment
of the road.
O highway I travel, do you say to me Do not leave me?
Do you say Venture not—if you leave me you are lost?
Do you say I am already prepared, I am well-beaten and
undenied, adhere to me?
O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I
You express me better than I can express myself,
You shall be more to me than my poem.
I think heroic deeds were all conceiv’d in the open air, and all
free poems also,
I think I could stop here myself and do miracles,
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and
whoever beholds me shall like me,
I think whoever I see must be happy.
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn’t a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.
All night there isn’t a train goes by,
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
But I see its cinders red on the sky,
And hear its engine steaming.
My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing;
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.
There was a road ran past our house
Too lovely to explore.
I asked my mother once—she said
That if you followed where it led
It brought you to the milk-man’s door.
(That’s why I have not traveled more.)
Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)
Night from a railroad car window
Is a great, dark, soft thing
Broken across with slashes of light.
Jennifer Grotz (1971-Present)
Self-Portrait on the Street of an Unnamed Foreign City
The lettering on the shop window in which
you catch a glimpse of yourself is in Polish.
Behind you a man quickly walks by, nearly shouting
into his cell phone. Then a woman
at a dreamier pace, carrying a just-bought bouquet
upside-down. All on a street where pickpockets abound
along with the ubiquitous smell of something baking.
It is delicious to be anonymous on a foreign city street.
Who knew this could be a life, having languages
instead of relationships, struggling even then,
finding out what it means to be a woman
by watching the faces of men passing by.
I went to distant cities, it almost didn’t matter
which, so primed was I to be reverent.
All of them have the beautiful bridge
crossing a grey, near-sighted river,
one that massages the eyes, focuses
the swooping birds that skim the water’s surface.
The usual things I didn’t pine for earlier
because I didn’t know I wouldn’t have them.
I spent so much time alone, when I actually turned lonely
it was vertigo.
Myself estranged is how I understood the world.
My ignorance had saved me, my vices fueled me,
and then I turned forty. I who love to look and look
couldn’t see what others did.
Now I think about currencies, linguistic equivalents, how
lop-sided they are, while
my reflection blurs in the shop windows.
Wanting to be as far away as possible exactly as much as still
Shamelessly entering a Starbucks (free wifi) to write this.
Rita Dove (1952-Present)
I love the hour before takeoff,
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls. Soon we shall
be summoned to the gate, soon enough
there’ll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
and perforated stubs—but for now
I can look at these ragtag nuclear families
with their cooing and bickering
or the heeled bachelorette trying
to ignore a baby’s wail and the baby’s
exhausted mother waiting to be called up early
while the athlete, one monstrous hand
asleep on his duffel bag, listens,
perched like a seal trained for the plunge.
Even the lone executive
who has wandered this far into summer
with his lasered itinerary, briefcase
knocking his knees—even he
has worked for the pleasure of bearing
no more than a scrap of himself
into this hall. He’ll dine out, she’ll sleep late,
they’ll let the sun burn them happy all morning
—a little hope, a little whimsy
before the loudspeaker blurts
and we leap up to become
Flight 828, now boarding at Gate 17.
Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles
In Lijiang, the sign outside your hostel
glares: Ride alone, ride alone,
ride alone – it taunts you for the mileage
of your solitude, must be past
thousands, for you rode this plane
alone, this train alone, you’ll ride
this bus alone well into the summer night,
well into the next hamlet, town,
city, the next century, as the trees twitch
and the clouds wane and the tides
quiver and the galaxies tilt and the sun
spins us another lonely cycle, you’ll
wonder if this compass will ever change.
The sun doesn’t need more heat,
so why should you? The trees don’t need
to be close, so why should you?