Follow your muse to a festival in Quebec City, a cowboy poetry gathering, a hotel with a poet laureate, and more
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
— “Song of the Open Road,” Walt Whitman
Poetry and travel are linked together, two friends who delight in wonder, mystery, and romance. Travelling can be like poetry, in that there can be certain places to which we return again and again for inspiration.
Next time you’re on the road, remember that poetry makes for convenient travel reading, simply because a poem typically takes less time to read than just about anything else. Poems are the literary equivalent of a tiny shampoo. You can absorb one on takeoff, landing, or while waiting for your room to be ready. So next time you travel, try tucking a poem into your pocket to contemplate when you have a few minutes of down time.
Meanwhile, if you’re in need of a little inspiration – or you just have an appreciation for the magic of words – consider adding some of these poetic destinations to your next itinerary.
New York State: Tuck into a pillow poem at Mohonk Mountain House
Guests of the Mohonk Mountain House, in New York’s Hudson Valley (around a two-hour drive from Newark Liberty International Airport) enjoy “pillow poems” from a resident poet at turndown. For the past 10 years, Frieda Feldman, 86, a Poet Laureate from Key Largo, Florida, has offered her poems as a small gift at the end of the day.
“I’ve been writing all my life,” says Feldman. “Words come to me and I listen.”
New York City: Surround yourself with words at the Library Hotel
If you’re seeking a change of scenery while you work on your next sonnet, check into the Library Hotel (Midtown, near Bryant Park). Guest amenities include a “writer’s den” and a “poetry garden,” where writers can draw inspiration from the famous Manhattan skyline, enjoy the cosy glow of the fireplace or read in the greenhouse.
A 24-hour reading room is decked out with hundreds of books, and is stocked with complimentary coffee, teas, cookies and fruits.
Toronto: Drink in the boho atmosphere at Poetry Jazz Café
Tucked into Toronto’s Kensington Market, you’ll find Poetry Jazz Café, an intimate jazz bar fit for a poet. Soak in the atmosphere, order up a signature “bitches brew” cocktail (containing rum, tequila, citrus and brown sugar) and let your mind find its muse.
Jazz is the chief commodity here, but open stage nights encourage budding poets and artists to share their material on stage.
Afterwards, the Kensington Market neighbourhood offers a few terrific locales to sit and be inspired, or read, or write. Check out Casa Coffee, an ideal perch for people watching, or Jimmy’s Coffee for a more subdued atmosphere in which to pen your prose.
Nevada: Mamas, don’t let your cowboys grow up to be poets
It might be in the last place you’d expect poetry, but the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, has been a vibrant testament to Western-style storytelling for more than three decades. As Nebraska rancher and poet R.P. Smith, who frequently performs at the festival, told Wide Open Country, “Poetry has made me a better rancher and ranching has sure enough made me a better poet.”
This year’s festival included workshops, films, demonstrations on cooking and horsehair braiding, song, dance and plenty of open mic readings. The next one will take place Jan. 29 to Feb. 3, 2018.
Quebec City: International Festival of Poetry
Rhythm and rhyme course through the streets of Quebec each fall during the Festival International de la Poésie, which features hundreds of readings from poets across the globe, with some 40,000 participants joining the celebration.
In prior years, the festival’s roaming poets have taken poetry to the streets and recited lines outside schools, offices and markets. According to the festival website: “They’re planting the seed of poetry … or scattering it to the four winds, spreading the word through their neighbourhoods.”
If you feel inspired, you can pen your own poem and drop it into the Poetry Mailbox, or hang your poem from the Poem Line. Maybe you’ll get invited to read at an upcoming festival. Meanwhile, the 2017 edition takes place from Sept. 29 to Oct. 8.