In this week’s chapter, The Poetry of the Commute, Glynn Young compares drive distances, along with locale and terrain, to the poetic style and content of various writers.
A commute of a mile is a short ode: Joyce Kilmer talking about a tree, over and done with before you realize it, your car engine barely warmed up.
And he points out that a longer commute (say, seventeen miles on Houston freeways, complete with all its wacky, hairyScary characters) is akin to Homer’s Odyssey, because on such a route Glynn and his wife “spent an enormous amount of usually wasted time and effort trying to find a way – any way – home.
Boy-howdy, I wonder who and what my husband’s forty-five mile each way, ruralite drive compares to?
Glynn’s current commute is just over six miles and it takes him fifteen minutes to travel. He opts for wooded suburbs en route to the office and some fancyPants neighborhoods on his return trip home. Mixing it up, he says, affords him “complexities of T.S. Eliot in the morning” and “relative simplicity of Emily Dickinson in the evening.”
I TurboRocket my morning thinker with a big mug o’ coffee and a barefoot, pajama-clad walk to the living room where I read, write, pray, and then plot the school day.
Our Poetry at Work authorMan further explains his drive-by locale with more detail — everything from manicured lawns of the rich to the region’s horse country village to some edge of town places with names and buildings representative of writerly eras (i.e. the Age of Reason, the Romantics). Then, Glynn jets across the pond and rides London’s Tube with his wife. By the way, “tube” in this instance refers to a train, not the inner tube of a big rig’s expired tire that one floats creeks with or see-saw rocks with friends whilst on a summertime lake. No sir, no ma’am – two different tubes. Two tubes. And if you say that real fast, you get tutu tubes. It’s not that either.
Back to London. As Glynn and his beloved rode the Tube, he discovered Poems on the Underground (1986). The purpose of this project “makes the daily commute “uneventful, by exposing more people to poetry.”
Poems on the Underground was spurred on by a similar endeavor (in America where buses displayed art and literature; 1984), and together, they both inspired Poetry in Motion (1992) that brought poetry to 7 million commuters via all manner of public transportation. Maybe inner tubes too – I don’t know.
This chapter’s Poetic Exercise is to “write down your path to and from work.” Well, did you read the fourth paragraph up? (I TurboRocket my morning thinker with a big mug o’ coffee and a barefoot, pajama-clad walk to the living room where I read, write, pray, and then plot the school day.) Oh wait, he also asks for details of what we see. And of course, the how and what and where and why we see poetry there…
Carl Sandburg (1878-1967), an American, prize-winning, turn of the century poet, writer, and editor is the Poet Focus for chapter four. And as detailed on Wikipedia’s site, Sandburg’s workingMan rap sheet says he worked a milk wagon driver, a hotel barbershop porter, a bricklayer, a farm laborer, a hotel servant, and a coal-heaver — all before he became a journalist, a writer, a poet.
Wowzer. In addition to many varied commutes, Sandburg had a quite a smorgasbord of writerly topic fodder, aye?
Glynn discusses an overlapping connection between Sandburg and another writer (Upton Sinclair) and an artist (Edward Hopper) – who, in their unity – “pointed to the way culture can be changed by the work of an artist and poet.”
Sanburg’s poems are of place and period–even awkwardly of a time period… But they made connections for me to art, literature and history, reminding me that poetry can be expressed in a way that transcends time and place, touching on universal themes…
Do you commute blind-eyed? If not, what do you see? Is there beauty? Ugly? What do you appreciate? Do you see your past? Your future? Your dreams?
A freeway trek in the carpool lane.
A pick-up ride along winding, rural roads.
A whiz-bang seat on the London Tube below the city streets.
A pajama-clad, barefoot walk from the 4am coffee pot to the living room.
How we get there says a lot about one’s lifestyle and its content. Our commuting life is important… but only if we give it due credit. Does it blur by the window or do you grab on and make it your own?
his iPhone dances across bed
side table, pup licks my dangling hand,
another dog rallies hungry
jowls against wooden door –
the morning’s begun
to begin in the dim light
of four hours past midnight. get up!
flick the coffee pot on, feed the dogs,
turn them out, let them in, listen
to the rooster’s croaky crowing. toast
the bread, start the fire. hand my man his lunch,
kiss his cheek, shove my beloved
out the door. breathe slow, low, and deep; set fire
to an incense stick (the one labeled midnight
smells like candied cologne). fill a mug
with brew. stack the iPad, its keyboard, two
journals, one notebook, two pencils, an eraser,
a Bible, and assorted study tools – cradle the lot
like a baby – as i carry it into living room with its
windows still and dark. it’s part
way between night and morning inside
and out, but i’ve a lamp
light – enough for my morning commute.
Glynn Young’s site
Poetry at Work (the book)