Brandon Adamson’s Skytrain to Nowhere is an 80-page book of what he calls “free-form poetry.” If that term usually causes you to run very fast in the opposite direction, don’t worry. To be sure the writing is carefully crafted in poetry style, but never overwrought or incomprehensible. Indeed most poems would pass as (very) short stories just by eliminating the line breaks.
Thematically the book is about riding the PHX Sky Train, a free 24-hour transport connecting Phoenix/Arizona’s Metro Rail with Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, covering a distance of maybe two miles in total. I direct you to the author’s own synopsis rather than regurgitating it here, and to an hour-long interview at Stark Truth Radio for a lot more background information.
Both cover a great many aspects of the poems, from amusement parks to motion and the passage of time, but for my part I just want to highlight two points. First, the PHX Sky Train (operating since 2013) is quite futuristic in a number of ways: a sleek electric transport system, gliding quietly above the ground with no overhead line clutter, bringing in and out thousands of travellers around the clock, while looking down on the Phoenix landscape of a modern megacity surrounded by desert. (The book features plenty of photos of those vistas.) Or in the author’s own words,
The colors and materials are
those of a clean, lightweight, no-nonsense,
aerodynamically designed machine.
Silver, translucence and gray
the marks of modern efficiency
on display in the 21st century desert city of
Many poems touch on this “retro-futurist” perspective, contemplating how our present world reflects, or fails to reflect, the clean sparkly science-fiction futures imagined 30 or 60 years ago. But before you think Skytrain to Nowhere is a work of dry philosophy, my second point is that it’s above all very refreshing and entertaining. You never know what factual anecdote or imaginary tangent the next poem will bring, you just know it’s never going to be dull. Anyone riding public transport without his nose buried in a smartphone should be able to relate and enjoy this book.
2 thoughts on “Skytrain to Nowhere”
I’ve ordered the book and look forward to reading it. My sister lives in Tucson, and I usually fly into Phoenix to visit her, so I’ve been on the Skytrain. I have a hard time relating to most of the modern poetry that I see, although I don’t doubt there’s some good stuff to be found. I suspect that modern poets often just write for each other, and don’t care about the reactions of the general public. I like Trakl, of course, but many of the poets I like are the ones we read in high school. Perhaps I was more receptive to poetry then. When it comes to poets I like, names like Poe, Burns, Byron, Coleridge, Elliot, Frost and Sandburg come to mind. H. L. Mencken would occasionally include stuff from local poets in the various states of the US in his American Mercury back in the 20’s and 30’s, and I thought some of their work was quite good.
I barely read any poetry at all, let alone modern one. Don’t worry, excessive artistic eccentricity is not an issue here. The text is a pretty straightforward narrative.