'Wanderings: Here is a coast and here is a harbour'

an essay on travel, the pandemic and Elizabeth Bishop's poetry published in the Literary Review of Canada

In so-called lockdown I started re-reading Elizabeth Bishop's poetry and her collected letters, One Art, originally published in 1994. I have dipped into her poetry many times over the years, but my last trip before the pandemic, to Brazil, where Bishop lived for many years, and the unwelcome stasis generated by the pandemic, encouraged me to go back to her work and consider what it might have to say to the present moment. 

A short extract is below.

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?

— Elizabeth Bishop, 'Questions of Travel'

On February 29, the calendar’s most elusive date, I arrived in São Paulo from my home in London. Although the morning was cool and overcast, emerging from the northern hemisphere winter into the subtropics felt like awakening from a cryogenic slumber. During the flight, I had watched Orion cartwheel across the sky as we journeyed down the Atlantic Ocean. I am a hardened traveller, but each time I fly I find it a miracle that we are able to propel ourselves through space with such velocity and relative safety. Also, I know how long the alternative mode takes...

Read the full essay at: https://reviewcanada.ca/magazine/2020/09/wanderings/