The Furthest Distances I’ve Travelled – Leontia Flynn

Leontia Flynn writes about her travels as a student in this poem. The poem looks at the journey she takes from being a freewheeling girl who just wants to travel and live life unknowingly, but then near to the end we see maturity hit her and a realisation that its not where you travel that makes you who you are, but the people you meet.

Themes –

  • Identity: The speaker appears to be trying to find who she is throughout the poem by travelling and living in ‘anonymity’, she’s on a journey of discovering herself. And it is at the end that she realises that what makes her who she is, isn’t the places she has been to, but rather the people she has met along the way. It is little ‘souvenirs’ from these people that bring her to a realisation that these people are the ones who shape her as a person.
  • Journeying: Not only does the speaker make physical journeys and changes to her life, but also makes a journey into realisation. She travels from place to place from ‘routine evictions’ like a ‘stowaway’, and begins by thinking that ‘this is how to live’, however her journey then becomes an emotional one rather than physical. She discovers that it is people who make her who she is.
  • Past and present: The speaker begins as a student who just wants to travel and have fun, but as she grows older and steps into the present day, she matures and realises the emotional journey she has embarked upon.

 

Tone of the poem –

  • The tone of the poem changes as we read further into it. We begin by getting this atmosphere of freedom and ‘restlessness’, showing that the speaker is excited for her journey. But as we get to the end of the poem she matures and this enthusiasm slowly fizzles out as she begins to think about how the ‘furthest distances’ that she has travelled, has been from the lives of others. There is a tone of maturity and her closing that carefree chapter of her life.

 

Structure –

  • The poem shows a free verse structure, to represent the freedom and lack of boundaries the speaker feels with her travelling. It could also show the lack of stability in her life, as free verse structures have no routine structure.
  • There is also a use of enjambment, the most prominent being in the split word ‘anonymity’, this could have been done to show that she is separate from her old life and everyone else. It is an unusual structure, like her unusual life.

 

Techniques –

  • There is a personal touch throughout the poem due to the first person references. The fact that the poet herself travelled during her student years makes us as readers feel that the poem is more meaningful and real.

 

Important quotes –

‘scare stories about Larium

Larium is a medicine used to treat malaria. The medication has also been linked with mental illness as a side effect, which shows that even though the speaker has heard of these ‘scare stories’, she isn’t afraid. She will continue her journeys.

 

‘stuffing smalls hastily into a holdall’

The speaker travels light because life on the road is fast paced and unexpected. She is living life not knowing what is to come.

 

‘alien pants, cinema stubs’

Maybe these are objects of dates and men she has been with. However these are just ‘souvenirs’ and part of the past, these relationships have failed. It is at the end that maybe she regrets not wanting to settle down and make these people in her life a constant.

 

‘Siberian white’

Siberia is an extensive geographic region. This could be a representation of how far the speaker has travelled and how far away she is from her home and her old self.

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