Travel Culture: Essays on What Makes Us Go

By Carol Traynor Williams | Go to book overview
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Mapmaking: The Poet as Travel Writer

BEATRIZ BADIKIAN

ALL POETS are travelers. Whether literally or metaphorically, we journey through words to discover new worlds. And we journey through the world to create new words. To trace our "own personal" maps we move through the world with words and through words in the world. During these journeys we also become travel writers of sorts.

Although in her introduction to Maiden Voyages, Mary Morris reminds us that "[s]ince women, for so many years, were denied the journey, they were left with only one plot in their lives--to await the stranger" (xv), her anthology is replete with the writings of women who did not await "the stranger;" women who instead went out to look for the stranger or strangers, for the other women, for themselves. Theirs was an internal journey as well as an external search. Like them, we, today, still look for that cohesiveness, that unification of mind and body. We labor in order to make sense of our lives, which have been, until recently, controlled by others. We search for congruence and meaning, justice and happiness through our stories and poems. Morris agrees when she comments that most male travel writers "explored a world that is essentially external and revealed only glimpses of who and what they are, whom they long for, whom they miss," but "for many women, the inner landscape is as important as the outer, the beholder as significant as the beheld. . . . There is a dialogue between what is happening within and without" (xvii).

The women included in Maiden Voyages are travelers who write about their experiences and the consequences of those journeys, external as well as internal. Writing in the eighteenth century, Lady Montagu tells about the women in Constantinople who hide in safety behind the veil--an antecedent to Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth, where he relates the stories of the Algerian women fighting for independence, whose veils turn out to be extremely useful. Montagu admires the fact that the Turkish women can do what they please beneath and behind all

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