In the weeks leading up to the release date of Shut Down Strangers & Hot Rod Angels, I'll be featuring some of the pieces and authors here on the blog! Our first feature is K. Weber and her poem "Never in Neutral."
K Weber has poetry and other writing featured in Black Bough Poetry, Detritus Online, Writer’s Digest, Memoir Mixtapes and more. Her photography appears in Barren Magazine, Mental Papercuts, and Nightingale & Sparrow. She has 4 self-published chapbooks in PDF & audio versions. Her in-progress chapbook is a poetry project incorporating words donated by 160 people and includes much collaboration! More (including most of her full creative credits) are at kweberandherwords.wordpress.com.
Which Springsteen song(s) inspired your poem?
My poem, “Never in Neutral,” is heavily influenced by the song “Highway Patrolman” from Nebraska.
What is it about these songs in particular and/or Bruce’s music in general that inspires you?
“Highway Patrolman” is just one example of richly-detailed, masterful storytelling in Springsteen’s catalog. This song has familial and love interest/relationship themes intersecting like the long back roads I picture when I hear it. Also the more I have listened to this track over the years, new and different imagery and situations present themselves. It has come to a point where I can instantly point out the lines I feel first-hand. More recently I started envisioning scenes from popular culture that lined up nicely with the setting and emotion of the song; characters and rivalries and moments tie in with those in other songs, film, locations, books, etc.
My main focus in writing this was not to “namedrop” (I rarely do this in my writing, so this is also new territory!) but to find some common ground for some who maybe never heard this song or album. Hopefully most can relate to or understand the depth of this song by catching some other references as examined in the poem.
This song paints such a slow portrait in muted colors and fog and bleak moments intertwining with hope. There is this sense that the main characters in this tune (Joe, Franky, and Maria) relive a lot of their longing and frustrations on a steady basis.
I honestly just loved being able to play with this song and adventure through it more. There is no big surprise ending to the song or the poem, just a lot of allusions to life. I am also a sucker for those albums off the beaten path that artists make that feel homespun, central or even Anytown, USA, a little different from their more rock and roll efforts. I think of Wilco’s Being There and Beck’s Sea Change LPs that also veered into something a bit more under a midwestern or mid-American microscope and an umbrella of heartfelt life in this sort of heartland whether you live there or just understand its undertones.
What five Springsteen songs do you think everyone should listen to?
Besides my obvious love for “Highway Patrolman,” these 5 songs have found me at different times and places both physically and in mind:
“Born to Run”
“Streets of Philadelphia”
What’s your favorite line/section from this poem?
nods off and Maria sways:
hips too close
to the unplugged jukebox.
Anything else you’d like to say, either about Bruce or about your poem?
If you have never heard the Nebraska album, it’s time. There is a lot of heart and want and feeling stuck and feeling cool in the night air and so much about growing up in places where everyone still remembers you as a child and teen. If it’s not relatable on a personal experience front, you’ll appreciate the finest lyrics to take you to those spaces in time.