Friday, April 9, 2010

Poetry Friday: Explorers

This week my research for the reader's theater book on Explorers took me to the North Pole. I'm reading Cook & Peary: The Polar Controversy Resolved by Robert M. Bryce. It was a story that caught the interest and ire of the entire country for years.

I've never been in a place that's extremely cold like the Poles. I don't like being cold, so it's hard for me to imagine anyone wanting to go there, especially more than once. But the explorers who once set foot in these frozen lands always wanted to go back. This poem by Mark Strand, captures the longing.

I Had Been a Polar Explorer
Mark Strand

I had been a polar explorer in my youth
and spent countless days and nights freezing
in one blank place and then another. Eventually,
I quit my travels and stayed at home,
and there grew within me a sudden excess of desire,
as if a brilliant stream of light of the sort one sees
within a diamond were passing through me.
I filled page after page with visions of what I had witnessed—
groaning seas of pack ice, giant glaciers, and the windswept white
of icebergs. Then, with nothing more to say, I stopped
and turned my sights on what was near. Almost at once,
a man wearing a dark coat and broad-brimmed hat
appeared under the trees in front of my house.
The way he stared straight ahead and stood,
not shifting his weight, letting his arms hang down
at his side, made me think that I knew him.
But when I raised my hand to say hello,
he took a step back, turned away, and started to fade
as longing fades until nothing is left of it.


  1. Dori, I saw your link on Poetry Friday and came here as I love reading about explorers and the polar regions. It's a wonderful poem. Thank you!

    Good luck with your reader's theater book. Of course I don't know what you're up to, but you might find my book helpful. How High Can We Climb: The Story of Women Explorers, from FSG is now out of print, but you should be able to find it at a library. It tells the Peary tale from his wife, Jo's, point of view. The Snow Baby, a wonderfully book with lots of photographs, by Kathleen Kirkpatrick, tells the tale of their daughter.

    I wish I could peek at what you're doing! It sounds like a great idea!

  2. Thanks, Jeannine. I will check out your book. I'll enjoy reading your perspective. My book is under contract with Libraries Unlimited and the deadline is this summer. It's a compilation of 20 scripts on explorers, plus 10 monologues. The research has been massive, but really fun at the same time. I didn't have any idea the extent of the project when I proposed it, much like an explorer headed into unknown territory. Fortunately it's not below freezing in the library!

  3. I too am drawn to Polar exploration, having grown up with a father who spent time in both regions, though not at the extreme levels of exploration, i should add. But I could see him mirrored in this poem. I think the longign comes through even in the use of the past perfect temse in the title - it sends a shiver down my spine!

    Your project sounds exciting - good luck with it - and I might just have to look out Jeannine's book too!

  4. Thanks for stopping in Marjorie. I'd love to hear about your father's journeys. I have a son-in-law in the Air Force who did a short tour in Antarctica. I can't even imagine that kind of cold!

  5. Yes, it is tough doing this kind of research. But at least we don't have to freeze.