Shut Down Strangers & Hot Rod Angels

an anthology inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen


Praise for Shut Down Strangers & Hot Rod Angels

In Kelly Shire's essay, collected here, she writes, "I'm performing loneliness." That word — performing — is such an apt way to access the work of Springsteen and what his work allows these writers to do in this anthology. Perform loneliness. Perform sorrow. Perform joy. Perform being themselves. While reading these pages, you are taken through Springsteen's wide-angled gaze into the many worlds he allows us to inhabit, worlds where writers can bring back the dead, redefine masculinity, worship what they used to hate about themselves. Most of all, you are given the privilege to witness so many writers being exactly who they are. This is more than just tribute. It is inspiration, exhilaration, the beauty of holding on to one small piece of the world.

-Devin Kelly, author of Blood on Blood (Unknown Press, 2016) and In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2017)

The work in this anthology speaks deeply to the gift that is Springsteen’s music and is a testament to the way his lyrics play in our heads, resonate in our souls, and help us make sense of the world and feel so much less alone. This book is evidence that almost anyone can find their way into his songs, as if Springsteen purposely left space for them. His characters capture the imagination of these writers and live on, becoming as real as anything, infusing the reader with the sense of belonging, connection, and community found in listening to Springsteen’s songs.

-Shawna Lemay is the author of Rumi and the Red Handbag and other books. She once drove a ’69 Mercury Cougar with a 351 Cleveland in cerulean blue. 

When you write about Springsteen you’re not just writing about Springsteen. You’re writing about class. You’re writing about a moment in history, about your old neighborhood, about that thread of youth that follows us down open roads and through adulthood all the way into our own backyards. Every one of the poems and stories, love letters and self portraits in this anthology pays homage to that spirit, the strength and despair, hope and sweat, the everyday jeans-and-T-shirt possibilities that we can all break free, make it out and find our own place to call home somewhere on that open road.

-Joaquin Fernadez, Writer and Recovering Filmmaker, Editor for Boneyard, Hand To Mouth and AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss and Grief

Like any good love story, a love affair with Springsteen transcends one man to reflect back the faces of many lives and loves. Like the music of Springsteen, this book embodies the power of art to speak to the soft human underbelly we all share and the hard chassis we build around it. Shut Down Strangers and Hot Rod Angels rewards fans if we come to play a “Where’s Bruce” game with song lyric quotes and references, but it rewards everyone with the power of its poetry and prose. As a collection, this volume is an elegy to cars and tunnels of love, to the promise of America and the breaking of that promise, to Mary and Wendy and Rosie and Janey, to Tom Joad and Jack the Rabbit and the Chicken Man. Shut Down Strangers & Hot Rod Angels is a testament to the power of an artist as an engine for the best creative impulses in other artists, and the audience is transformed as a result.

-Betsy Hodges, Speaker, Writer, Advisor, former Mayor of Minneapolis, MN.

Track List


This Is Your Hometown . . . Katie Runde

A Lord's Prayer . . . Gary Leising 

There's a Joke Here Somewhere and It's On Me . . . Sara Lippmann 

Star Jet Standing . . . Erin Keane

[saxophone solo] . . . Sarah Priscus

In The Taco Bell Drive-Thru I Read Bruce Springsteen's Palm . . . Lauren Howton

Like Only A Lonely Angel . . . Kelly Shire

At Sixteen . . . Justin Hamm

Bruce Springsteen is my new dad--ask me how! . . . Rax King

Badlands . . . Matt Mitchell 

Can't Start a Fire Without a Spark . . . Betsy Housten

Baby Teeth . . . Elinor Ann Walker

Mary, Wendy, Rosalita . . . Madeline Anthes

Self-Portrait as the Girl from a Springsteen Song . . . Jessie Lynn McMains

Rosalita Code . . . Amy Rossi & Megan Phillips

The Promised Land . . . Jade Hurter

Independence . . . Erin Cork

Never in Neutral . . . K. Weber

Wreck on the Highway . . . Michael O'Malley

Atlantic City . . . Angelo Colavita

Wrong Side of the Winning Line . . . Patty Templeton

Backyard Grave . . . April Lindner

Winners and Losers . . . Dorian Sinnott

A Debt No Honest Man Can Pay . . . Bill Yarrow

Joy Ride . . . Travis Cravey

dressed in drag for homicide . . . Rico Craig

Switchblade Lovers . . . Michael Leonberger

Kansas . . . Atar Hadari 

The Siren of 7th Street . . . Don Raymond

Busted . . . Kevin Oberlin

This Place Where I Live . . . Michael Calderwood

Reason to Believe . . . Matthew Woodman

Streets of Elkton . . . James McAdams

Outside Atlantic City . . . Erin Keane

Somewhere in the Swamps of Jersey . . . Armand Rosamilia

My Father Said . . . Elinor Ann Walker

All the Boys She Sent Away . . . David Turnbull

Johnny's Girl . . . Angela Caravan

We Take Care of Our Own . . . Michael O'Malley

Burn This . . . Janna Layton

Birth of Office Bad Boy . . . Marina Mularz

Asbury Park . . . Angelo Colavita

Fat Man and Wild Billy . . . Nikki Tranter

Dallas, The Rocker, and The Redhead . . . Chris Haven 

Greasy Lake Swim Club . . . Justin Lutz

the night our team destroyed those goddamn panthers . . . Matt Mitchell 

The Heroes We Thought We Had To Be . . . Adam McCulloch 

First Lesson in Vietnam, 1987 . . . Justin Hamm

The Fire, The Spark . . . Mar Catherine Stratford 

Driving to the Jersey Shore . . . Margaret DeRitter

Girls Who Cruise . . . Sutton Strother

Roads . . . Amanda Crum

Born to Run . . . Lisa Mangini

Poem which is just the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen's 'Thunder Road' or is it . . . Rax      King

Engrafting . . . Donna Luff

A Supermarket in New Jersey . . . Erin Keane

Carrying a Friend . . . Dave Housley

Rises Bold and Stark . . . Rico Craig

Perfect Circle . . . Jennifer Wortman 

Synonyms of Springtime Surrender . . . Juliette Sebock

A.C. . . . Ambrose Tardive

Geography Lessons . . . Matthew Woodman

Nowhere Radio . . . Holly Schofield

My Other Cheek . . . Dalton Huerkamp

My City of Ruins . . . Aisling Keogh

Philadelphia . . . Angelo Colavita

Blinded . . . Ralph Dartford

Just to Slip This Skin . . . Sawyer Lovett

Fire . . . Jenna Gomes

New Year in Nebraska . . . Atar Hadari

Rosalita's Gonna Bust This City in Half . . . Ellie Campbell 

San Francisco Bay Dusk Ode With Bruce Springsteen . . . Lauren Howton

What It Means . . . Patricia Fuentes Burns

My Old Soul . . . Finn Wylie

The Dao of Bruce . . . Erin Cork

Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Vivino Jam at Convention Hall, Asbury Park . . . BJ      Ward

Tunnel of Love . . . Nick Desjardins