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In ROADWORTHY, poet Dave Mehler offers readers a unique opportunity to view the world through the lens of a “hauling witness” -- a long-haul truck driver in the US and regional truck driver in Colorado/Wyoming and the Pacific Northwest. Based on the poet’s life and work on the open road, the poems relate experiences in narrative and lyric form, ranging from ecstatic treatments in dense lyrical lines to prose poems, and even a couple that might be considered flash fiction. Some poems have oneiric, surreal qualities; some recount actual dreams; others are cast in the form of dialogues within narratives. A series of conversations “transcribed” from CB talk between drivers is included.
Beneath the lyrical surface of the truck-driving subject matter, spiritual and metaphysical questions are posed: Does mundane work matter and can it be meaningful? Is beauty or practicality inherently more valuable? Is thoroughness better than expediency? Does personal evil exist, and if so, how should we respond?
So hop in the cab with poet Dave Mehler and join him on his wonderfully unique poetical experience in Roadworthy. Share a cup of coffee with him on a cold, snowy wintry night at a truck stop off I-80 in Wyoming. At the end of the long haul, you will be glad you raised your shaky thumb up on the side of the road and hitchhiked -- it will be a ride you will never forget.
A Note From the Publisher
Cover image reproduced from the painting “Crow,” by Z.Z. Wei
Cover image reproduced from the painting “Crow,” by Z.Z. Wei
“True to the title, ROADWORTHY offers readers the world through the windshield of an 18-wheeler. But this collection is far more than a compendium of tales from the truck stop. The verbal maelstrom pulling the reader along through the poet’s asphalt odyssey is psychological, mythological, and, at its best, disturbingly spiritual. His images are rich and keen not only because he has a poet’s eye, but because he has a journeyman’s wisdom concerning what to look for. The diction is at once figurative and precise, the syntax dense, the resonances dependably sure. Mehler has learned to pay soulful attention— and he demands that readers do the same.”
—William Jolliff, Professor of English, George Fox University
“These poems drive your mind through blue-collar ventures unaccustomed to literary affection — the world of long-haul trucks bringing shrink-wrapped loads of mystery along difficult roads to deliver the true texture of working experience. Here are revelations from the road, from long night runs, from alley dramas behind the Dollar Store. The poet reports on smoke breaks, road kills, Van Gogh as a working temp, the quick architecture of stacked pallets, bad jokes, poverty, commerce, trusty friends, jailings, firings, early snow and endless maintenance — all in a dense poetic line, ‘a driven necessity badgering the mind.’ You will emerge from this book deeper in experience, and eager to speak the poetry of working life: ‘the trannies then were geared so low you could pull the pass in first and never spin a wheel.’ ”
—Kim Stafford, author of WILD HONEY, TOUGH SALT
“David Mehler has produced a collection of poems illuminating a world that most people see only in passing. His rich, multi-layered pieces reveal the world of those whose lives are lived on our road, highways, and truck stops. Mehler’s poems deserve to be read and reread.”
—Geronimo Tagatac, author of THE WEIGHT OF THE SUN, AND OTHER STORIES
“In Roadworthy, David Mehler takes the reader like precious cargo cross country from loading dock to loading dock. He reminds me that truck drivers are my brothers -- the human element in the supply train keeps the nation running for the long haul.”
—David Memmott, author of THE LARGER EARTH and LOST TRANSMISSIONS
“For any of us who have spent long stretches of time working at a tedious or repetitive job, it can be tempting to adopt the opening line from Berryman’s 'Dreamsong 14” as an attitude, a way of being in one’s world: “Life, friends, is boring.' We plod along, head down, eyes blinkered, mind numbed. Mehler doesn’t settle for this, heeding instead the advice of the wizened, crafty, old, truck driving sage in Ode to G.D. Winter: ’Remember, son — be attentive.’ And, attentive he is, taking the reader, Sam Spade-like, through a twilit world that many of us, whether we shop at the Dollar Tree or Whole Foods, know little about and think of rarely. Whether it’s a haunted semi trailer, a Van Gogh doppelganger, the vagaries of road conditions and other drivers, or the constant specter of mechanical failure, there’s always an ambient sense of threat or dismay present, and no detail escapes the poet’s eye.”
—Keith Hansen, H&H Drywall
“Roadworthy represents an utterly unique lyric register built on an unerring sense of rhythm, speed and sound. In these psalms of the road, Mehler hits raw and wild chords, unlocking a hurting music we didn’t know we needed so badly to hear.”
—Gina Ochsner, author of THE HIDDEN LETTERS OF VELTA B. and THE RUSSIAN DREAMBOOK OF COLOR AND FLIGHT
“In this book the sublime stays up all night drinking truck stop coffee, hoping to make it to the state line before sunrise. On each page, language and experience dance their inextricable dance, much to our pleasure and wisdom. Dollar Tree forever.”
—Charles Hood, winner of the Felix Pollak Poetry, the Kenneth Patchen Prize, and the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize
“In ROADWORTHY, David Mehler lets his many years as a truck driver roll fiercely across the page. In poems that double-clutch between a tender lyricism and a fire-hosed physicality, he brings you into the cab, over the pass, and right up to the loading dock. Mehler knows this work-grimed world and its many strange characters — and lets them sing in their own tongue, rough and sweet.”
—Paul J. Willis, author of DEER AT TWILIGHT: POEMS FROM THE NORTH CASCADES
“Dave is a good writer, a good poet. By this I mean that he is technically good. His material reads as well as any great Hemingway prose. Hemingway’s best prose reads like very good poetry. Dave’s poetry is drier, more arid, somehow closer to what life is really about. Hemingway is great, but he can be pretentious. He is a grand man, and often speaks as a grand writer. Dave, however, chooses the real life of a long-haul truck driver and chooses to write about the characters who were not at the gates of hell. His characters are neither Captains of Industry nor war heroes. Or as T.S. Eliot would say in Gerontion:
'I was neither at the hot gates
Nor fought in the warm rain
No grand cannonade in the neighboring forest of oak.'
Instead, it is stories of people struggling with a real-life of sequential cigarette breaks between stretches with a hand truck, a forklift, or lifting with their arms and backs.”