The Poetry of Trucking

Along with it being Mother's Day, this weekend on Dave Nemo Weekends is all about poetry and culture. In other words, it's all about trucking.


Now, before you roll your eyes and roll away, give me a moment to unload this rig. Saturday, we'll be talking not just poetry in general, but reading your poetry specifically. Poetry has the ability to haul emotions that are often unmanageable in other ways. Ecstasy, agony, longing, and loneliness sit on the tip of your tongues and the end of your dashboards. But those emotions can never seem to get through the gridlock.


It's poetry that steers us through a slowdown. A haiku, a rhyming couplet, or a stretch of free verse are the emotional versions of cruise control, limiters, or GPS. Poetry is a navigational system for the isolation of a profession that leaves you far from home. Yes, it can be silly, awkward, and over the top, but those three conditions are part of the weight that you carry on your journey. I bet you have described not only your fellow Road Dogs but also yourself in those silly, awkward, and over the top terms on more than one occasion.


There is often talk of a trucking lifestyle. A lifestyle is an individual choice, specifically crafted by its creator to survive, thrive, and bond. But it isn't crafted in isolation. It depends on observation, trial-and-error, and relationships. The trucking lifestyle comes from merging into the culture of trucking. Your lifestyle depends on your ability to move with the culture.


And that brings me to our two Sleeper Cab Library authors this weekend.


Saturday, Bonnie Tsui will dive into the world of road dogs to discuss Why We Swim. Tsui will be talking the joys, pleasures, and sense of achievement that returning to our point of origin gives us. On Mother's Day, Dr. Carl Safina reveals how animal cultures raise families, create beauty, and achieve peace in his latest Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace. Although Tsui looks at our urge to plunge into the waves while Safina focuses on the beasts with whom we share the earth, both are fascinated with how culture is communicated.


Safina writes, "a cultural group is a collection of individuals who have learned, from one another, certain ways of doing things." He amplifies this idea while on an adventure to observe sperm whales when he quotes marine biologist Shane Spero:

You are who you are, because of who you are with. Because of who you are with, you do what you do in the way you do it.

Tsui's book is in complete agreement with these ideas:

Human groups connect and build bodies of knowledge that no single individual is smart enough to figure out in one lifetime: how to make a triple-barbed fishing spear, what to burn for fire in the absence of wood, how to leach poisons out of a toxic plant to make it edible.

It is easy to see how this applies to your profession.


Your way of doing, your way of trucking, has been figured out over many lifetimes. You might handle your books in the way your colleague's grandmother handled hers, it is possible you are driving your rig in the way your trainer's trainer trained him, and that awesome parking technique drilled into you by your dad might have been passed on to him at a truck stop by some guy named Red.


Nothing you do has a single point of origin.


And that brings us back to poetry. The poetic is an attempt to capture something so vast, so complex, so profound, that standard definitions seem to escape it. When we hear the word "trucking," I think we move quickly past it for fear of being overwhelmed by all it contains. Trying to figure out what trucking means is akin to asking a frustrated driver on a dock to explain themselves when they acclaim "life!" or some single unprintable profanity.


You've raged against the dying of your equipment, you've sung the body electric when everything works just right, and you've wept quietly at the thought of the miles to go before you sleep. If you can't quite find the words for how you feel, it's good to know Dylan Thomas, Walt Whitman, and Robert Frost have taken the time to figure it all out.


Poetry attempts to capture that elusive point of origin. It is available to use, free of charge, for any who feel the word "trucking" isn't enough.


Hope you enjoy the shows.


Give us a call this weekend! 615-292-6366. We'll be live on Dave Nemo Weekends from 7-11am ET on SiriusXM's Road Dog Trucking Radio 146. Free to listen through May 31, even without a SiriusXM subscription.


On Saturday at 8:30am ET, we'll talk with Noah Brush, whose 1961 Ford Econoline won the Twin Cities Auto Show Project Car competition. We met the teenage Noah--and his mom--at our remote broadcast in March. Bonnie Tsui joins us at 10:30am ET for a look at Why We Swim.


Sunday, Carl Safina joins us at 9:30am ET to discuss Becoming Wild and mother and son team Michele and Dylan Smith are up at 10:00am ET to share the story of The Quarantine Cookbook.



Photo by Simone Hutsch on Unsplash

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