Red Wolf Editions Fall 2020 Edition: Journeying

book cover issue 17

Red Wolf Editions Fall 2020
Theme: Journeying

Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there… No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?

—Elizabeth Bishop

Ah…the lure of seeing the world. A cornucopia of sights, sounds and tastes for one’s senses awaits the traveler. Beyond the sensory experiences does travel change the traveler? What is its romance? What are the experiences that translate to pleasure, or discomfort?

There’re many journey stories. Ones that are vivid and imaginative – in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy travels to the magical land of Oz, before returning to Kansas after a magical adventure; in Journey to the West, a Buddhist monk travelled to the western regions of Central Asia and India to obtain the sutras. Accompanied by his three colourful disciples, he encountered many demons who wanted to eat his flesh in exchange for immortality; in the end the monk and his disciples succeeded in their quest; in The Odyssey, Odysseus had taken 10 years to get home to Ithaca, surviving the Lotus-eaters, the Cyclops, the witch goddess Circe, the Sirens, the six-headed monster Scylla and the whirlpool Charybdis and finally a shipwreck. These epic journeys were filled with trials and tribulations. They are about transformations, a test of character and the creation of identity.

Then there’re the road trips. One of the most definitive is Jack Kerouac’s On The Road — a lyrical, trippy stream of consciousness. There’s Thelma & Louise, a feminist fantasy movie bar none. In the Gilmore Girls (I binge watched it on Netflix recently!) there’s a part of the storyline where Lorelai Gilmore decided to hit the Pacific Crest Trail after reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Just like the protagonist in the book, she had hit a rough spot in her personal life and decided to go on the trip (like plenty of other women too apparently) and it was there that she received a moment of clarity. She knew what she had to do, which was to call her mother to mend the mother-daughter rift and to marry her long-time partner, Luke. The best road trips are about growth, illumination and awakening.

Often to sort out one’s self a physical journey is taken. Seamus Heaney’s poem, “The Peninsula”, is on point.

When you have nothing more to say, just drive
For a day all round the peninsula.
The sky is tall as over a runway,
The land without marks, so you will not arrive

But pass through, though always skirting landfall.
At dusk, horizons drink down sea and hill,
The ploughed field swallows the whitewashed gable
And you’re in the dark again. Now recall

The glazed foreshore and silhouetted log,
That rock where breakers shredded into rags,
The leggy birds stilted on their own legs,
Islands riding themselves out into the fog,

And drive back home, still with nothing to say
Except that now you will uncode all landscapes
By this: things founded clean on their own shapes,
Water and ground in their extremity.

Wherever you go, you can’t help but be inside yourself, and what rules the inside but your heart. In Matthew Dickman’s poem, “The Mysterious Human Heart”, the landscape the protagonist describes is of a produce market in New York, yet the external world is always subject to the internal workings of one’s heart.

On Monday morning I will walk down
to the market with my heart inside me, mysterious
something I will never get to hold
in my hands, something I will never understand.
Not like the apricots and potatoes, the albino
asparagus wrapped in damp paper towels, their tips
like the spark of a match, the bunch of daisies, almost more
a weed than a flower, the clementine,
the sausage links and chicken hung
in the window, facing the street where my heart is president
of the Association for Random Desire, a series
of complex yeas and nays,
where I pick up the plantain, the ginger root, the sprig
of cilantro that makes me human, makes me
a citizen with the right to vote, to bear arms, the right
to assemble and fall in love.

In this issue of poetry, the journeying can be a kind of wandering. But need not be. The journeying is really inside yourself. And it is all about feelings and emotions. Why? Because ultimately it’s about your soul’s journey. All these journeys are part of that one. All these journeys are experiences that are designed to make you feel and when you come out of a journey, in whatever form, you are changed in some way. You are moving towards the goal of becoming yourself. Just like Odysseus, you are trying to get home, to feel more and more your destiny, to come to peace with it. Life itself is a series of transformations. Outside the world seems still, the same, but inside you’re not the same.

Your poems about journeying would be about any moment to moment experiences I imagine. Anything really, as long as there’s an emotional current, as long as from point A to point B there has been a transformation within.

On their way home from Troy, Odysseus and his men were captured by the Cyclops and he had told Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon, his name was “Nobody” and in that way had escaped his captor. In truth in making his epic journey, by the time he got home the journey had made him who he was – Odysseus. The homecoming completed his story. Your journey is your story of becoming who you are. As the poet Li-Young Lee had once said, “We’re all versions of Odysseus trying to get home.” It takes time and effort. It takes courage and will-power. It takes everything you’ve got to overcome whatever had come up to delay and prevent you from getting home. You, meaning the protagonist in your poem.

First you need to go on a journey. The journey is some sort of quest, a getting to know yourself quest. How else will you know yourself? Your journey is into the unknown. Having journeyed, you will then know, and tell your story. So when you say your name, your name would mean something. When Odysseus’s men ate the lotus in the land of the Lotus-eaters, they became oblivious and forgot about wanting to be home. The state of not doing anything is perhaps the equivalent of becoming a bum. Unless you consciously want to be a bum. Else you’re a nothing.


Read our submission guidelines here. Please check back on our site to see if your poem has been selected. We will not be sending out any rejection letters.

Submissions period: March 2020 to August 2020. Selected poems will be posted on this site and compiled into a PDF release in Fall 2020.

Let’s get trippy! Good writing.

Irene Toh
Fall 2020

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: