In the May 2, 2011, edition of the New Yorker—okay I’m a little behind, but it’s not like it’s time-sensitive—Dave Hanson wrote a clever piece about an app devised for the literary traveler. The idea is to simply type in a poet’s name and get directions to that poet’s former home, the directions being given in the style of that poet. He gave several examples, including this one for William Carlos Williams:
so much depends
a Red Lobster on the corner
of S.R. 22 and tompkins road
drive past it and there’s no way to turn around until you hit greenville
make the turn and we’re the white mailbox on the right
glazed with rainwater
And of course, “The Road Less Traveled” was perfect to parody to give directions to Robert Frost’s house:
Two roads diverge at the yellow light,
Alas you cannot travel both
If you pause and look down the one that goes right
You’ll see a really dreadful sight
The seething sprawl of suburban growth.
There are Starbucks, Applebee’s, Best Buy, and Lowe’s
Staples, Ikea, Petco, and Sears
T.J. Maxx, Victoria’s Secret, two Office Depots,
An Outback Steakhouse and three Costcos
All this has sprung up in the last seven years.
Nearby are McMansions, each with an S.U.V.
On cul-de-sacs that are impeccably drawn
8,000 square feet for a family of three
Lauren Drive, Ashley Road, Brittany Street
Each named for a developer’s spawn
Congestion is the modern blight,
Traffic (like urban planners) is often dense
Two roads diverge at the blinking light.
Go left—for God’s sake don’t take the right,
It will make all the difference.
He also does wonderful things with Dylan Thomas (Do not go gentle when you make that right) and T.S. Eliot (Once in Jersey the cars come and go/Betweeen the Turnpike and Ramapo).
Since one of my writing heroes is Dr. Seuss, I thought I’d give it a try Theodor Geisel-style.
When asking directions in Whoville they say
You’ll end up on paths going all the wrong way
For everyone knows that to find Dr. Seuss
Highways and street signs are really no use
You may head out left but end up going right
You may start at daybreak and walk until night
A map’s just a map and can’t help in this case
You could read it until you’re blue in the face
You can’t find the doctor by bus or by train
You can’t get there walking or even by plane
You just have to open your eyes and then look
It’s easy to find him when you read a book!
Doesn’t this inspire you to write directions for other writers? Consider all the possibilities. The way to Gertrude Stein’s:
A road is a road is a road, but once you get here, there’s no there there.
There, the gauntlet has been thrown—the challenge is yours to take.