Ten years ago, almost to the day, I spent three weeks travelling in the USA, the UK and Germany. During that time I wrote a series of poems, entitled Between Empires. While many of these poems have been published individually, the collection itself has until now remained secret.
Like the poems in The Happy Farang, the pieces that make up the two parts of Between Empires—namely, Peace Falls and Forever Wende—are predominantly about the travelling experience. In fact, pretty much every series of poems I’ve ever written is about travelling. Seems I’m not much good at (or interested in) anything else.
Anyway, here we are in 2012, and I’m knee-deep in some kind of sentimental journey whereby I’m going back through all of my old writings, looking for affirmation. But affirmation of what? The fact that I was actually writing? Or travelling? Or writing about travelling? Gaaaah!
Reading these poems again is a slightly awkward experience for me, although I’m hoping that others don’t feel that way. I get the feeling that there’s something missing in the lines, perhaps a result of the fact that they were composed by hand (i.e., hand-written) and then typed up in a word processing programme. But there’s something else missing, and I’m not even quite sure what it is.
I guess a lot of travel writing has to grapple with a sense of being out of time, or place. These poems certainly don’t ‘belong’ in the context in which they’re now being presented to the world. They’re a bit like the poem ‘Thomas Pynchon and the Art of Anonymity Maintenance’, which I wrote while in Thailand, and which appears in The Happy Farang, but which has nothing to do with either Thailand or travelling.
During my travels in 2002, I was on a train heading from NYC to Buffalo, when I saw this guy sitting across from me, who I will swear to this day was Thomas Pynchon himself. I tried to engage him in conversation, but to the end he swore his name was Jerry. Perhaps the spirit haunting the poems in Between Empires is also called Jerry. Perhaps he never existed.
In any case, it would be another three years before I wrote about Pynchon again. But that is the subject of another blog post. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these poems for what they are: brief excerpts from an itinerary long since forgotten; random thoughts from a diary never kept.