I’ve learned not to bring poetry books along with me when I travel. Not only do I burn through them in the first hour of the flight, but I also find that planes and airports don’t lend themselves to a slow, deliberate, and contemplative consideration of poetry. This doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t something poetic or literary about the experience of travelling. There’s the peaceful experience of turning back to see the rows of people of all ethnicities and ages dozing under the flickering lights of their televisions in the middle of the night on a transatlantic flight. However, catching a moment like this means that you aren’t sleeping. On the way to Budapest, we went about 35 hours without sleeping. The whole thing takes on a Kafka-esque, theater of the absurd feeling. The moving sidewalks turn over on themselves endlessly, carrying no one, you stand in lines 3 people long for an hour and a half, and you run from gate to gate, repeatedly promised spots on planes that all leave without you. Once you find an airline employee capable of getting you to the correct country, the experience is much less alienating. Reading is suddenly brought into sharp focus – correctly reading and understanding a sign becomes a thrilling experience. It’s also surreal to me, on my first visit the country where my father was born, to find that all the stuff that we do that seems unique to Hungarians in Canada is the norm here. You can buy pogàcsa in every grocery store, and everyone speaks Hungarian (not surprising, I know, but strange to finally experience). My favourite poety thing so far, though, has to be the Hungarian Scrabble game in the coffee shop where we had breakfast this morning.
Helen Hajnoczky is currently writing to you from a country where people pronounce her name correctly. Her first book of poetry, Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising, is forthcoming from Snare Books.
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