Questions of Travel, a poem by Elizabeth Bishop, was written in Rio and published in 1956 about five years after she first moved there.
There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
–For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren’t waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.
Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?
But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
–Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
–A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.
–Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr’dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.
–Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds’ cages.
–And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians’ speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:
“Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?
Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?”
Photographs by William Eggleston
by Hugo Williams
I wonder will I speak to the girl
sitting opposite me on this train.
I wonder will my mouth open and say,
‘Are you going all the way
to Newcastle?’ or ‘Can I get you a coffee?’
Or will it simply go ‘aaaaah’
as if it had a mind of its own?
Half closing eggshell blue eyes,
she runs her hand through her hair
so that it clings to the carriage cloth,
then slowly frees itself.
She finds a brush and her long fair hair
flies back and forth like an African fly-whisk,
making me feel dizzy.
Suddenly, without warning,
she packs it all away in a rubber band
because I have forgotten to look out
the window for a moment.
A coffee is granted permission
to pass between her lips
and does so eagerly, without fuss.
A tunnel finds us looking out the window
into one another’s eyes. She leaves her seat,
but I know that she likes me
because the light saying ‘TOILET’
has come on, a sign that she is lifting
her skirt, taking down her pants
and peeing all over my face.
Passengers: A Subway Quartet. Chris Marker. 2008-2010.
In this series of photographs Chris Marker captures the passengers of Paris Metro at their most banal, illuminating the beauty and poetry of our everyday lives. In this sub-series, A Subway Quartet, Marker insets a famous classical painting which mirrors the expression and/or pose of his character.
German/American writer Rosmarie Waldrop writes about her feeling of displacement between Europe and America
I’m not quite at home
on either side of the Atlantic
I’m not irritated the fish
a home makes you forget
where you are
unless you think you’d like
to be some place
I can’t think I’d like to be
some other place
places are much the same
I stand securely in a liquid pane
touched on all sides
to change your country
doesn’t make you
grow (a German doll
into an image of America?)
it doesn’t make you change so much
you can’t remember
things are much the same
so much the same
differences are barbed
I try out living at a distance
watching from a window
not all here
a creature with gills and lungs
I live in shallow water
but when it rains
I inherit the land
Longing to Travel
“Fernweh is an improbable landscape made of cliffs, forest and dunes. I created it from four small discoloured nineteenth century photographs that I found in flea markets some time ago. The craggy horizon is a famous outcrop, called Sächsische Schweiz – Saxony’s Switzerland, which is near Dresden. The foreground is unknown sand and scrub.
Finding a path amongst the vegetation and boulders of the photographic distortions, I imagined Goethe’s voyage to Italy, particularly his parcours south of Rome on his way to Naples.
‘Fernweh’ is discontinued parlance for a longing to travel, an aching to get away. Different, I imagine, from ‘Wanderlust’, which is a more spirited desire to be in the landscape.
It is the etymological opposite of the German word, ‘Heimweh’, which means homesickness. We do not have a single word in English for this more considered desire to be gone. This work should be approached through its title.” Tacita Dean
A Trip to the Earth:
Today the big adventure begins! Starting with Italy and Greece, eating good food, doing yoga, reading about Art.
Here are two cool videos from the start of the twentieth century by two pioneers of special effects, the Cinemagicians Georges Méliès and Segundo de Chomón.
Le Voyage Dans la Lune. Georges Méliès. 1902.
Excursión en la Luna. Segundo de Chomón. 1908.
Today I’m hitchhiking in Romania from Suceava to Piatra Neamţ . Here’s a photograph by Romanian artist Mircea Cantor (who is exhibiting in the MNAC of Bucharest, see here). A hitchhiker with a blank sign, going in any direction.
Just finished reading Archipelago by Trinidadian writer Monique Roffey. One of those great books that gives you the itchy feet! Now I want to conquer not only land, but also sea. I also learned about a phenomenon I never knew existed, the “moonbow”, or lunar rainbow:
“The moon is high in the sky; there is the disappearing squall, and between the squall and the boat — a perfect hoop. Just like a rainbow, except the seven shades of colour are shades of grey and gauzy light, as though it is a rainbow in negative. A wide delicate arc stretches across the night, each end finishing in the sea…A rainbow before it has dressed itself.”