Monday, April 23, 2007

The fourth option

This past weekend, I spent a fair amount of time online researching the Camargue region of France. On Saturday, though, I took a break and stopped in at Open Books to pick up my copy of Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone, by Janice Harrington. While I was there, I spoke with J.W. Marshall about the logistics of writing about a place one has never been to. I came up with three options:

  1. I could write it and then show the work to someone who has been, as a kind of sanity check.

  2. I could write the whole idea off as ridiculous and skip it.

  3. I could write the poems and stick them in a drawer with the hopes that someday I would be able to go and experience the Camargue, at which point I could finish them.

“What about the fourth option?” John asked.

“What’s the fourth option?”

“Go now!”

We agreed that was a very romantic idea—just hopping on a plane and jetting across the globe to research some poetry. Yeah, right.

I left the store with not one but three new books of poetry (the aforementioned, plus Blackbird and Wolf by Henri Cole and On the Vanishing of Large Creatures by Susan Hutton). I also left with a feeling of empowerment—if Henri Rousseau could paint pictures of the jungle, I could write about the marshes of the Camargue.

But what would that fourth option look like, if I just had a couple extra thousand dollars and enough vacation time lying around and I could put my bicycle on a plane and fly to France for two weeks and bike around the Camargue and look at the birds and maybe ride a horse and write and write and write—and eat! Spring and autumn are supposed to be the best times to visit.

For example, how much money? How much vacation time?

Where would I fly into? Paris, and take a series of trains? Where would I stay?

(I know, I know: I’m always whining about wanting to go to Italy—and now France?)

We were at one time planning to go to Paris and Brittany and possibly Provence this summer, and then that plan was taken off the table.

I’m not nearly as good at doing things as I am at dreaming about them. Then again, we’re still talking about maybe taking the trip next year. In the meantime, I’m online reading and looking at photographs and maps and beginning to play with some poems.

What do you do when you want to write about a place that you haven’t been to? Does that question ever come up? (And if I've asked this before, my apologies—but I'll keep checking in.)

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