Writing Travel Poetry



Writing Poetry

 What do we need in order to write poetry?


  • A desire to say something (or describe something).
  • Words to do it with.
  • A sense of music. A major difference between poetry and everything else we write (prose) is in its sound. Music is sound arranged in patterns; so is poetry, with the addition of meaning. Put slightly differently, poetry is meaning in words, strengthened by their music.


(That doesn’t mean, of course, that all poetry has to have music, any more than it has to have ‘meaning’ as we normally understand it. ‘All poetry’ doesn’t have to have anything.)


Writing Travel Poetry


When something new happens to us, or when we see something (or realise something) for the first time, we usually want to talk about it. We may want to write about it as well. If we’re travelling we will probably write about it in emails or on postcards, or in a travel diary. We could also choose to write about it in poetry, either at the time or when we get home.


I began to write poetry again (after a gap of many years) when I started to travel seriously. It’s truer to say that my poetry began to write itself – after I’d been woken by an earth tremor during the first night of a stay in Lima, Peru. At breakfast next morning I found myself jotting down words and phrases about the event on my table napkin (paper napkin, that is – it wasn’t a fancy hotel). After breakfast we went for a walk in the busy square nearby. My arm was grabbed and held, and my watch taken – very skilfully, so that it was impossible to discover who among the crowd had done it. (Luckily, it wasn’t a fancy watch either.) The photograph above is one I took just before that happened.


Those two new experiences came together in my mind and in the poem which grew over the course of the day (Earth Tremor in Lima in Images of Peru). Whenever I travel now, I write – sometimes as I travel, sometimes afterwards. I also, of course, take photographs. Memory’s all very well, but…