Wanderlust Before the Pandemic

Martin Jon Porter’s 2019 collection, No Home Like A Raft, is a lovely work reflecting on the joy of travel and the disorientation of homecomings that now sits in an interesting window of human history. Will poetry collections like Porter’s replace humanity’s physical wanderings with more internal travels now that Covid-19 has swept through air and sea with the disinterested vengeance of an old god?

Wishful travelers inhaling “…that smell…” of wanderlust as “…it begs him / again / and again,” may have to ignore it for some time and find solace in verses like Porter’s, who was lucky enough to explore homes far from his own before this pandemic struck. While they wait for world leaders to declare that this wild virus no longer poses a threat, yearning backpackers confined indoors are encouraged to read, to let Porter lead them over mountains and clouds so they too may see a “Portrait of a Public Bench – Old Havana, Cuba”. Porter will show them “dogs: / bones poking through their skin / sheltering,” and then drop them “…on the outskirts of Santa Ana…” to scramble desperately to catch a bus for Juayúa and bring them home with him in “Homecoming” to share Australia’s “Cockatoos and magpies…” “…squawking in the trees.”

Porter’s collection is an interesting diary of his travels of the Yucatan Peninsula and the Inca Trail. His style of writing is minimal, yet still satisfactory. The poetry’s lean nature does not rob it of fulfilling imagery and emotional chords. Porter does fall into silly archetypes though in “On The Wolf Trail”. After declaring himself a wolf, ‘…preferring / to observe…”, he writes, “I feel stronger / roaming alone / than in a pack.” He must be a very lonely wolf then as wolves don’t generally like being alone. The imagery of a ‘lone wolf’ is a bit melodramatic, but it would have been very interesting to see Porter compare himself to an animal that does actually prefer to travel in solitude like a bear.

The poem that does prick more intently than some of the others is “95,” because “What do you write / to Nan / for her 95th birthday / when she’s stopped / eating and drinking…” What does a traveler say to someone who is at the end of their travels? Porter answers his readers gently: “I’ll say goodbye…”

Travel once more with blissful abandon through “dust / dirt / clay”, “…epoch of rocks…” with No Home Like A Raft.


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