He totaled his blue truck —
slowly spun out on an icy bridge,
rammed it into a guard rail.
Climbed out unbruised.
Coal Creek. Middle of nowhere.
A passing couple brought him home.
Then three years
with letters from the Motor Vehicle Department
before he relinquished his license.
Before we met, while driving cab,
he broke his neck. It rewelded
off-kilter: head stuck forward.
Six years later, it’s that jut I suddenly see ahead.
It’s late, but for once no mist or fog. And on all
the twists and turns of that coastal highway,
its bluffs and coves, I am following
the spitting image of him
in that battered Sonoma —
its peeling paint, cracked brake lens,
the slumped driver silhouetted by my lights —
only the two of us on the road.
- Read the poem once and concentrate on the sensory details that the speaker is describing – colours, temperature, what they can see. Don't try to unpick the meaning just yet. Can you explain the ways in which the speaker evokes a particular mood?
- “the slumped driver silhouetted by my lights —/only the two of us on the road.” Do you believe the speaker is talking about a living person here? If yes – or no – what evidence can you find for this in the poem?
- Sonoma is a place in northern California and – according to the poem – a make of motor vehicle. The word also has echoes of “sonambulation” or sleep-walking. What are the details in the poem that might suggest a dream?
- In her micro-interview with Poetry In Voice, Jane suggests that the poem was inspired in part by her relationship with her husband. What details in the poem might make you think that the speaker has an intimate relationship with the driver of the Sonoma?
- The poem uses a lot of short phrases – sometimes just two words – at the start of the poem to layer details and create suspense. Practice reading the poem aloud and play with the length of the pauses to see how you can use silence to create tension in your recitation.
- Write a poem about an uncanny encounter that you've had. Think about how to use small but focussed details to create the scene and atmosphere. Leave it on a cliffhanger.
You can find out more about Jane Munro – and how she recites poetry while upside down in yoga poses – at http://www.janemunro.com/
Listen to Jane Munro reading from Blue Sonoma, the book that “Sonoma” is taken from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qew94T7M330
Jane Munro, “Sonoma” from Blue Sonoma. Copyright © 2014 by Jane Munro. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
Source: Blue Sonoma (Brick Books, 2014)