Since it began rolling off the assembly line in 1908, the automobile has raced unchecked into the American psyche and redefined freedom as four wheels and the open road. That high octane spirit is celebrated in Drive, They Said, a fascinating anthology of poems devoted to Americans and their cars. "So much has happened in cars—birth, death, illumination, sorrow, anxiety, joy," writes editor Kurt Brown. So what better vehicle for dramatizing these experiences than poetry?
The results sweep past your open window at 70 mph—a stunning blur of desert landscapes, small towns and empty turnpikes. Journeys often lead to revelations: A hilly road driven at night is a reason for wanting to have a baby, and jump-starting a dead engine becomes a way of grasping the possibilities of life. Some poems simply celebrate the need to cut loose with the windows rolled down and the accelerator floored. "The center line pours tracer bullets at the bug-splattered windshield," writes Jonathan Holden.
"You're weightless in the thick of speed, going nowhere in all directions."
Featuring well-known writers (Robert Bly, Elizabeth Bishop and e.e. cummings) and lesser knowns, Drive is accessible and eloquent—a description of life as Henry Ford could never have imagined it. By the end you have to wonder what carried us in our dreams before cars were invented. (Milkweed Editions, $14.95)