The Drunken Driver Has the Right of Way: Poems

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Provocative, revealing, and often hilarious poems by the Oscar-winning screenwriter of No Country for Old Men

In his screenplays and short stories, Ethan Coen surprises and delights us with a rich brew of ideas, observations, and perceptions. In his first collection of poems he does much the same. The range of his poems is remarkable–funny, ribald, provocative, sometimes raw, and often touching and profound.

In these poems, Coen writes of his ...

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Drunken Driver Has the Right of Way: Poems

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Provocative, revealing, and often hilarious poems by the Oscar-winning screenwriter of No Country for Old Men

In his screenplays and short stories, Ethan Coen surprises and delights us with a rich brew of ideas, observations, and perceptions. In his first collection of poems he does much the same. The range of his poems is remarkable–funny, ribald, provocative, sometimes raw, and often touching and profound.

In these poems, Coen writes of his childhood, his hopes and dreams, his disappointments, his career in Hollywood, his physically demanding love affair with Mamie Eisenhower, and his decade-long battle with amphetamines that produced some of the lengthier poems in the collection. You will chuckle, nodding with recognition as you turn the pages, perhaps even stopping occasionally to read.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The co-creator (with his brother Joel) of such terrific, offbeat movies as Fargo and Barton Fink here turns his attention to rhymed self-mockery, dirty limericks and deliberately offensive, versified tall tales in his debut book of poems; the results can be entertaining, though they can also seem juvenile and self-indulgent. Coen's best efforts appear near the front of this longish collection; they belong to a worthy tradition of witty, metrically perfect, light verse aimed at adults a tradition whose exemplars past and present include Edward Lear, Dorothy Parker and Sophie Hannah. Coen in this mode likes to make fun of himself, and his readers, and poetry in general: "O!/ I love a poem that starts with an O!" a three-page work begins. Kiplingesque quatrains laud "booze, and coke, and sluts"; other poems focus tightly on toilet humor, while a longish set of stanzas defends laziness "Let my good friends the masses/ Get up off their asses/ While I stay at home with a smirk." The smirk continues, alas, throughout the volume, which seems designed to provoke both chuckles and disgust. One highlight is a very long collection of inventively obscene limericks ("there are those who insert/ Their own amative parts in a yurt"); low points arrive in some first-person narrative poems, one of which follows the poet's detachable penis. Despite his notable metrical facility, Coen (who has also published a book of short stories, Gates of Eden) seems to regard verse largely as a way to blow off steam, rather than as a serious second vocation; devotees of his movies should be amused, but will likely be disappointed as well. (Oct.) Forecast: The Coen brothers' moviemaking prominence should guarantee someattention. Sales volume, however, will depend heavily on media attention to what is partly a genuine book of light verse, but partly a novelty item. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
"The loudest has the final say,/ The wanton win, the rash hold sway,/ The realist's rules of order say/ The drunken driver has the right of way." Coen has proven himself a brilliant and original filmmaker; he is responsible, with his brother Joel, for Fargo; O Brother, Where Art Thou?; and Miller's Crossing, to name just a few. He has also published a collection of short stories, Gates of Eden, which received good reviews. So it should come as no surprise that we now have his first collection of poems. Sadly, to call it poetry is to be kind. These are, at best, sophomoric rhymes, bawdy jokes, and off-the-wall nonsense. They are perhaps the equivalent of marginalia or doodles mindlessly jotted at the bottom of film scripts. Observations and reductions that are more fitting to standup comedy, these pieces are often funny but are seldom anything more. Mr. Sands is a boarder who, after setting off a bomb in his room, can no longer knot his tie. "Tale of the Yukon" tries to retell a Jack London tale in four lines. There is the analysis of dreams, a parody of Bukowski, and a few dozen limericks (including a handful of "clean limericks" under the title, "What, Then, Is the Point?"). There is even a "Lament" in which Coen compares his poems honestly to those of Shakespeare, Sophocles, and Keats. It is enough to make one look back fondly on Jewel and Suzanne Sommers. Maybe it's I, but I just don't get it. Louis McKee, Painted Bride Arts Ctr., Philadelphia Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307462695
  • Publisher: Crown/Archetype
  • Publication date: 4/7/2009
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 823,592
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

When not writing plays, poetry, or short stories, ETHAN COEN makes movies with his brother, Joel Coen. After thirteen films, the Coen brothers have one of the most beloved and critically acclaimed bodies of work in the history of cinema.
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Table of Contents

"Mr. Sands" 9
To O 10
The Drunken Driver Has the Right of Way 13
Tale of the Yukon 15
On Davey Jones 16
For What It's Worth 19
Anthropology 20
Old Age 21
Horns 22
After Bukowski 23
Such Sweet Sorrow 24
C. Darwin 26
Three Places 27
Agent Elegy 28
The Hopping Poem 29
The Fable of C. Edgar Botts 30
I Love You Deeply, Darling 31
My Dream and What I Make of It 34
Back, When the World Was Fresh and New 39
Limericks 41
More Limericks: Sons of Abraham 56
What, Then, Is the Point? Clean Limericks 57
Reunion 59
A Naughty Verse 62
Is This Thing On? 64
Never-Ending Remembrance 65
The Twa Duncies 68
Johnny Pigass 71
On Being Nye 72
Hereafter 74
Should Beasts Be Met 76
The Little Flower Girl 78
Self-Partrait 79
I Am Born 80
A Man Can Dream 83
Lament 86
Something for Everyone 87
The Road to Heaven 89
Bloomingdales, or, Ontology 91
Churchyard 92
Dog, Debonair 95
Retirement Plan 96
If I May 97
The Mental Garden 98
Toppled in the Street 100
The Wrestler: A Fragement 102
I Am Finished 104
Solution 105
To a Dear Lady 107
April Is Tornado Season in Minnesota 109
O Yale Man 112
Reminding Me of Someone Whose Bed Does Not, and Son Does, Spring Out 115
You Want Spooky? 116
To a Young Woman, Maimed by a Reaper 119
I Have a Dream 121
Model 125
Riddle 126
The Wise Man 130
How Long, How Late 131
I Dreamed I Left My Knapsack 132
I Dreamt I Saw St. Augustine 136
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