John Updike’s take on travel: A mini tribute and ode to NYC

John Updike, as well as being one of America’s beloved, if not a bit controversial, novelists, was a traveler and a poet. Brenda’s post yesterday was a fitting tribute, but here’s a bit more. In his collection of poems, Americana, published in 2001, Updike combines the traveler’s and the writer’s eye.

The poem “Americana,” subtitled “Poem Begun on Thursday, Oct. 14, 1993, at O’Hare Airport, Terminal 3, around Six O’Clock P.M.,” is an airport musings piece. In this one he uses the airport as a place to let his mind and words ponder life. In another, he delves into the subject of an overhead luggage rack. (To read “Americana,” click on this link and scroll down.)

In other poems, Updike tackles overseas travel and descriptions of cities. About New York City, he wrote the lines “whose sheets of windows rise like dusty thunder” in reference to the skyscrapers.

New York City, according to Leon Neyfakh who wrote an article about Updike in the New York Observer, was one of Updike’s favorites.

Along with people watching and taking in the city’s sense of adventure, Updike enjoyed heading to art museums, in particular. Neyfakh was planning on taking Updike to the Miró exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art on his next visit to the city.

If you want to see New York through Updike’s eyes, sit at a restaurant table where you can look out the window and people watch. Then head to the Museum of Modern Art to see the Miró exhibit. Along the way, jot down notes on your observations. Perhaps you’ll uncover a poem in there.

For a review of Americana, click here. For Updike’s review of the Museum of Modern Art before it reopened after being remodeled, click here.

Chalky Lives did the photo montage of the Chrysler Building, an image that seems to suit Updike’s words. The second photo, titled “Jump” was taken in NYC”s theater district by Joshua Davis. It also seems poem worthy.

In today’s New York Times, Updike’s poem, “Requiem” was published in the Opinion page. It’s part of his collection “Endpoint and Other Poems” that is soon to be published.