I think every traveler, is a romantic or a poet at heart.
If there was one person or entity, with whom I can say that I have fallen hard and deep in unrequited love, that has to be my passport. In fact, even my old passports, which I still keep – as a memoir of a relationship that lit up a fire in my belly for even just the couple of years that I had her. Like the remnants of a beautiful relationship from the past. It has – between its pages – etched onto time everything about the relationship. The jokes we shared. The times we faced the world together. Fought for each other.
The times we loved. Loved each other. Loved others across the ocean.
It was on my previous travel-year, when I started to experiment with travel poetry. Writing about my daily experience in a place, or a moment of time – and in prose instead of verse. This experiment had mixed results. There were some days that beautiful lines oozed out of my Macbook – descriptive yet capturing the emotions I felt for that place in time. The Brazilians have a term for this that has entered the English lexicon: ‘Saudade’. A feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia. When I read those simple quatrains now, I feel the same. A sense of Saudade. Of wanting to go back to that specific time and place in the past. Of reliving that one particular day.
But on the other hand, there were days that I had a complete mental block. I could not bring to words, what I was going through. Sure, I still did write the daily poem for the project, but it was more about what I saw. And not about what I felt.
It was on one of those days that I was approached by an Indian diplomat named Abhay K, who lives in Brazil (As of writing this page). He was working on an anthology of poems about all the world capitals. He asked me if I can contribute, and I was more than happy to. There were some rare capital cities in the world, that people had not yet written prose about. But I had.
Eventually, he included my poems on Port Vila (Vanuatu) and Monaco city, in the anthology. I haven’t had a chance to read the final book yet, but it was released last year with rave reviews from literary festivals. And that is when I had the thought for this project.
A poetry-book of capitals, was a great idea. But maybe I could take up that idea and make a book of poetry about every single country in the world? I have a reputation of coming up with the weirdest projects and soon losing interest, so I waited a few months to see if this sudden ‘urge’ would pass.
It didn’t. Every time I visited a new country, the romantic in me was penning down mental verses for the places I saw and the people I met. I knew I had to write it down quickly, or I would forget. So, I did. And gradually started setting the tone for this project.
Firstly, I did not want this to be an contributed anthology. I know each poet has their own style of writing (I respect and like all of them), but I wanted to maintain the style throughout during this project. I have already been to 75 countries as of today. And if my lifeline stays long enough (should stop that smoking problem, soon!) I hope to see all the countries of the world in another 10 to 15 years. So, I am pretty sure I can do this on my own. And if anything untoward happens, and any of my loving friends want to complete my memory, I am also leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for you to pick up on and complete this project in my memory 🙂
Secondly, I needed a fixed style of writing poetry. I am particularly fond of reading haikus, but I have always loved writing quatrains. So, it made sense for me to write sonnets. A Shakespearean sonnet has 14 verses, and I think that 14 lines does reasonable justice in capturing the essence of a country.
So, wish me best of luck. Firstly, to keep travelling and visiting every country in the world. Secondly, to keep the romantic in me alive.
Below are the countries that I have written sonnets to, so far:
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