‘vacation itinerary’ by Raisin is a collection of absurd, dangerous, and thought-provoking experiences, intentions, or thoughts.
The poem was written in 2020 and is made up of a series of phrases, strung together into one long sentence without end punctuation or a proper subject/verb format. There are a total of four lines, but this does not appear to be an important part of the poem’s format. With this non-format, it is unclear whether not the poet intended the lines to break after “Ross” and “mixer”, etc, or if this was simply where the words hit the margin.
The phrases are vastly different from one another. Some speak to violence, others to the mundane. Together, they are collected under the title ‘vacation itinerary’. With this single piece of context, a reader must contend with the myriad of references the poet has chosen to combine together.
Themes in vacation itinerary
There are a few themes that run through this work, most prominently, engaging in risky behavior. This is seen through the reference to jumping off the curb, murder, and “huffing lighter fluid before biking uphill”. There are also a series of phrases that relate to a theme of frivolity. These include the “knowing all the lyrics to every Diana Ross / song” and “grabbing free pamphlets wherever you go”. In a larger context, how these lines relate to the title, ‘vacation itinerary’ is up for debate.
You can read the full poem here.
Analysis of vacation itinerary
In the first line of ‘vacation inquiry’ the speaker begins with a lower case letter. This pushes the reader right into the moment, without prelude. Immediately, the reader is asked to consider what it means, or how it would feel to jump off a “curb dramatically”. This is a strange phrase. It references danger, in that there could be something in the street. But, to jump off “dramatically”, one might be putting on a show of emotion and danger. It could be part of an act.
The second half of the phrase begins with another “-ing” word. This time, an adjective. The speaker relates the first line to, “knowing all the lyrics to every Diana Ross / song”.
There is something necessarily meaningful about knowing all the words to every song by one artist. Then, when one considers which artist it is, that “meaning” can change. How a reader will perceive this line is entirely subjective, depending on whether or not they like or respect Ross as a singer and songwriter.
The line is enjambed, meaning that a reader has to go down to the next line of text to figure out what happens next. But, as mentioned in the introduction, the separation of the lines does not appear to have been considered by the poet. So, this technique might have occurred by happenstance.
An element of violence is introduced in the second line of ‘vacation itinerary’. The fact that “plotting” murder follows immediately afterward knowing the lyrics to Diana Ross songs is an interesting choice. It is meant to shock the reader and make them reconsider what this work is about. Due to the fact that there are no connecting words between the phrases, there is a randomness to these scenarios or experiences. They might vaguely relate to one another as a to-do list, but beyond that, any larger theme (aside from the two separate themes mentioned in the introduction) is out of reach.
This act of violence, which is of course only a thought, is followed up by the concept of moving through the world with “only…one usable hand”. There might be something to be said about the connection between an act of physical violence and a physical impairment, but considering that the other phrases do not seem to connect at all, this might be coincidental.
The second line continues on into the third of ‘vacation itinerary’. The speaker suggests a scenario in which one drinks a mixer with no alcohol in it. This phrase is a lot more open than some of the others. It provides the reader with an opportunity to consider why someone would do this.
Continuing on, one of the statements relating to the theme of risky behavior, “writing math equations in ink”. If someone does this, they are either completely confident they won’t make a mistake, they’ve convinced themselves they are smart enough not to need an eraser, or they simply don’t care.
Another risky activity follows, “huffing lighter fluid before biking uphill”. In this line, regardless of whether or not it was the writer’s intent, there are examples of consonance and alliteration. Alliteration with “before biking” and consonance with the ‘f’ sound used in “huffing” and “fluid”.
In the last line of ‘vacation itinerary,’ the speaker concludes with two more statements. They suggest, recall the experience of, or are looking forward into a future in which one can “grab…free pamphlets wherever” they go. Then, “rubbing” one’s own body “down with Lysol wipes”. There are a few times in this poem in which the speaker utilizes the second person. In these phrases, it is the most thought-provoking.