By my rough calculation, two transatlantic flights and just under a dozen jaunts within the States add up to something over 10,000 miles. Judge no man before you’ve walked a mile in his shoes, runs the old proverb. Mine have made it back, albeit with the right one split and both going through at the heel. It’s good to be home.
The last time I travelled anything like these distances was in 1996 after which I wrote an article on writers in transit for Die Welt. I’m not sure now if writers’ mobility is quite as significant as I felt back then. But it is a fact and it reminds me of the first poetry reading I ever attended, when I was eighteen. I had picked up a second-hand copy of John Wain’s “Letters to Five Artists” then saw that he was reading in Bath. A trio of us sat in the middle at the front and after the reading I asked the poet about these lines:
“BOAC announce the departure of their flight
will passengers for this flight please
go to the top of the main staircase
See him rise from his nervous seat
flight-bag and magazines clutched in his hand
stomach already soothed with Dramamine
Dogrose, the poet in a drip-dry
suit on his way to an
INTERNATIONAL CULTURAL CONFERENCE…”
Was Dogrose meant as a portrait of Ezra Pound, I wanted to know? Pound is alluded to later in the poem, isn’t he? Wain was gracious with my over-literal questions. “Pound?” he echoed with a kind of weary wisdom. “I suppose he was the start of all that….”
Of course the traveller was partly himself, and later it would partly be me. I’m glad he took the train down to read his poetry in Bath that day. What we leave is the work, one way or another. I’m off to Germany later in the month, India in the New Year for the Jaipur Festival, then Perth, Australia, Germany again and the Netherlands…. It’s time for a new pair of shoes.