Katherine Anne Porter: Travel changed her life

Awhile back, I wrote a post about how Langston Hughes’ train trip to Mexico to visit his father influenced his poem “A Negro Speaks of Rivers.” I recently heard that Katherine Anne Porter’s writing is also connected to travel to Mexico, but years before Langston made his way there.

Because May 15 was Porter’s birthday (She died September 18, 1980) Garrison Keillor presented a short retrospective on her life during yesterday’s “Writer’s Almanac . “

Travel changed Porter’s life. Prior to her trip to Mexico, on the invite of Mexicans who told her about the revolution that was about to blow, Porter had never been out of the U.S.–she hadn’t been much further than Texas where she was born. To head to Mexico in 1919, as a female and alone, was rare.

With the success of her short stories inspired by her Mexico experience, Porter later headed to Europe where she began to write about Texas. As she found, often when you leave your home, that’s when you can truly see it and have something to say about it that has any meaning.

The collection Flowering Judas and Other Stories was a result of her Mexico travels. She wrote her novel set in Texas, Noon Wine, in Europe.

Here’s a quote from Katherine Anne Porter to enlighten your day as a traveler.

“Miracles are instantaneous, they cannot be summoned, but come of themselves, usually at unlikely moments and to those who least expect them.”

Langston Hughes: Poetry inspired by travel

When Langston Hughes’s dad moved to Mexico when Langston was a child, he created the path to the poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” In 1920, while crossing the Mississipi River on a train on his way to Mexico to visit his dad, Langston was inspired to write the poem on the back of a letter. He had just finished high school.

In honor of Black History month, the inspiration gathered from world travel and Langston Hughes, whose poetry still inspires, here’s a short video of him talking about this trip and writing the poem. Plus, he reads it at the end. See what images of your own trips are conjured up. This is a lesson in always having a scrap of paper and a pen or a pencil with you when you travel.