There are many poetry books I’ve found entertaining, intriguing, interesting, but every now and then I come across one I want to hold close and never let go. Advice to a Traveller, by John Foggin, is one of these. Published by Indigo Dreams (in fact, and unsurprisingly, their joint Poetry Pamphlet Prize Winner 2017), you can buy it here:
That link also tells you a little about John. I can also tell you he’s a warm, thoughtful, man with a cuddly soul. This probably goes some way to explaining how he writes adorable poems. There’s a resonant depth to the stories written and pictures painted with the lines. This blog’s not a review, though; it’s a record of poems that have inspired me to write, in the hope that they inspire you, too. I’ve chosen the title poem because it bursts with ideas. Here it is, reproduced with the kind permission of the Great Fogginzo* himself:
Advice to a Traveller
It is pointless to pack;
if you must, take a loaf.
You will find what you need as you go.
Disregard nothing –
a needle, a handkerchief,
a comb, a pinch of salt, a flask of oil.
You are the youngest of three.
Wait until the older two have left.
They will be well-provisioned
and well-shod. Then you can go.
Listen to all you meet.
They will give you wishes.
Go with a clear heart.
Do not be surprised when:
your bread stays the hunger of wolves,
the comb cast down becomes a thicket of thorn,
the handkerchief a lake,
when the oil unseals the iron gates,
the salt seasons the banquet of a king.
All will be well.
If you are in the right story.
I’m not about to ruin this poem by dissecting it and explaining it. Read it a few times and you’ll work out for yourself more than I could explain to you.
For our own poems, may I suggest:
- Consider writing a poem that’s a list of instructions. It could be for anything: getting married; going to a strange country; dyeing your hair; buying new shoes; becoming a unicorn….
- Think of a favourite story, choose one of the characters and advise them on whatever you think might be interesting, or fun, or meaningful, or all those things.
- Find a poem you’ve written that you’re not happy with yet and try rewriting it in the second person. Especially any poems written in the first person that risk being self-indulgent.
- Think of some objects, the equivalent of the loaf, comb, salt, etc. in ‘Advice to a Traveller’, and write them into a poem.
As I always say, if this blog post has inspired you to write a poem, please say so in the comments. Especially of you’re one of the blog followers in a country that seems to me to be incredibly far away and different, like, for example, Azerbaijan.
Once again, buy this beautiful pamphlet. You won’t be disappointed and I’m sure it will inspire you to write your own poems.
*The Great Fogginzo is a reference to John Foggin’s poetry blog; always a great read: