07. Poetry of the Voyage

Basho by Buson
Bashō by Buson
The poet Bashō walked alone on the Narrow Road to the North to create one of the great works of Japanese literature. He wrote, “Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” William Wordsworth found his poetic inspiration in solitary walks through England’s Lake District. Anne Carson wrote “Kinds of Water because of her experience of the pilgrimage route to Compostela. The voyage can inspire metaphors of conquest (geographical or sexual), so beautifully exemplified in the 16th-century work of John Donne. And sometimes a voyage leads a poet to feel unexpectedly at home, as Elizabeth Bishop found in Brazil. St. Augustine says, “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” Maybe travel is how we learn to be present for the poetry of living.

Do poets set out for transformation, or does illumination come by chance? In our discussions, we will explore the voyage with five luminous poets: Bashō, John Donne, William Wordsworth, Elizabeth Bishop, and Anne Carson. We’ll discuss the intriguing similarities in these poets’ travel poems across the ages. And we’ll supplement our discussion with an essay by Rebecca Solnit: “Walking … is how the body measures itself against the earth.”

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

“I’m a wanderer / So let that be my name” – Bashō


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Lisa Pasold is a Canadian novelist, TV host, and poet who divides her time between Paris and New Orleans. Her most recent book, Any Bright Horse, was nominated for the 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry. A devoted traveller, she can't wait to discuss these poems of the voyage with other inspired readers and travellers at Toronto Pursuits.

Participants are required to obtain the specified editions in order to facilitate the group’s ability to find and cite portions of the text during discussion.

Plainwater, by Anne Carson (Vintage Canada/Random House, 2003)
ISBN 13: 0-676-97274-8

We will also use a compendium of poems in PDF.

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