Thursday, August 28, 2008

Rubber Side Down- The Biker Poet Anthology Edited by Joe Gouveia

( Joe Gouveia second from right)

Rubber Side Down- The Biker Poet Anthology
Archer Books, Los Angeles, 2008
195 pages
ISBN: 978-1-931122-19-1

Review by Stephan Delbos ( Prague Review)

Rumbling straight from the back roads of literature comes this energetic collection of biker poetry, edited by Massachusetts biker poet Jose “JoeGo” Gouveia. Featuring photos by Michael Lichter, biographical essays, retrospectives and 73 poems from 43 poets from North America, the Netherlands, China, Russia and South Africa, “Rubber Side Down” is both all-inclusive and exclusive; the poets are born of diverse backgrounds, from highwaymen to professors, but all are passionately united by their love of leather, motorcycles and the open road.

And it is passion that comes through most undeniably in the poems of this anthology, passion as clear as the rumbling of straightpipes down Main Street. And this is fitting, for, as MarySusan Williams-Migneault writes in her poem “Biker Poetry is more…:” Biker Poetry is the engine firing up/ blasting across the horizon/ stretching out before you waiting.” It is motion and emotion these poets are most concerned with, and at times the desire for speed seems more important than impeccable craft.

Though the poems vary in form, featuring loose free verse, rhyming ballads, and even “Baiku,” a clever twist on traditional haiku, the constant is a desire to relate a story, be it a memory, a biker legend, or a moment of intense or comical perception. The latter are presented most clearly in the aforementioned “Baiku,” which vary from the comic: “Laconia run/ to the strip to see the show/ bikes and boobs abound!,” to the meditative: steel rubber and chrome/ roaring through concrete jungles/ thunder storms roll in.” These Baiku by Jose Gouveia show just two of the multiple variations on the theme of Biker poetry.

It is clear that these poets are united in their subject matter, just as it is clear that they have little or no desire to be accepted by the academy. But this anthology represents not just a ramshackle collection of poems by men and women on motorcycles. Rather, this anthology, the first of its kind, is both a roadmap and a road: an historical record of Biker Poetry and a path toward a more organized and represented movement.

According to essays in the anthology, The Biker Poetry movement has its roots in the late sixties and early seventies, when The Hell’s Angels reached their highest point of notoriety. At this time, cultural representatives such as Allen Ginsberg and Hunter S. Thompson, to whom the anthology is dedicated, produced representative texts on bikers and biker poets. Since then, the movement has literally cruised the great American highways, coming to fruition at various times in magazines and readings. Not until “Rubber Side Down,” however, has the movement had such inclusive and organized representation. There can be little doubt that the movement will continue to gather strength and that this anthology will serve as a touchstone for future publishers.

Though the themes and presentation of biker poetry may not be for everyone, these poets are undeniably active, even if until now their activity has mostly been within their own circles. “Rubber Side Down’ is an infectious collection of passionate, energetic poems, a must-read for anyone who rides and writes, or anyone who wants to keep abreast of burgeoning underground movements in American poetry. It is wise to remember the words of the late Thom Gunn, whose “On the Move ‘Man You Gotta Go’” is the first poem in the anthology: “One is always nearer by not keeping still.”


  1. MarySusan Williams-Migneault writes in her poem “Biker Poetry is more…:” Biker Poetry is the engine firing up/ blasting across the horizon/ stretching out before you waiting.” It is motion and emotion these poets are most concerned with, and at times the desire for speed seems more important than impeccable craft.

    Recently I wrote a poem on Bruiser's Performance. The incomparibull dick revs up & Yamaha & gets wiped out for his trouble.

    bruiser's performance

    Vice President Richard Bruiser a celebrated pianist
    the Jasper kid who flopped his doctorate
    zipped up the Yamaha grand reving it full bore.
    He rocked the grapes off the crossbeam
    then fell heavily from his high perch
    puncturing his beloved biohazard suit.
    With blood dripping on the floor & a paranoid growl
    he said, ‘go fark yourself!’ hurling the score
    of the grosse fugue by Ludwig Van Beethoven the immortal
    at an unsuspecting quartet of foreign dignitaries.
    With flare Bruiser burst up to the footlights
    where he took out his running mate
    with a personalized version of the celebrated
    water boarding technique.
    High heels conservative ties academic gowns
    & bonnets stampeded immediately.
    Fire dancers ripped down the aisles & up the drapes
    as that fat old boy turned the burning deck & set
    into a spectacular spontaneous pyrotechnic event.
    Vice directum dickhead leapt astride Harry’s casket
    that accidental hero once sadly impregnated
    with friendly fire on an ill fated Texas hunting trip.
    Teeth gleaming phoenix eyes squinting
    Bruiser immediately became an immortal
    & just as impotent as the pope in his pointy red shoes.
    He hummed the hymn ‘onward christian soldiers’
    as he smiled his triumphant frostyboy smile
    whispering hoarsely as he expired into the ears
    of jackal axle herself, ‘so this is how it’s done.’

    cheers & pigsarse to all


    Biker Poetry Run: Keeping the rubber side down by MarySusan Williams-Migneault (RH

    Being published in Rubber Side Down: A Biker Poet Anthology (Archer Books, CA., Edited by Jose Gouveia, Submissions Editor: K. Peddlar Bridges, Copy-edited by Susan Buck, 2008) has been an interesting ride with the promise of a summer's wind, glimpses of a new horizon, a rain burst or two, a few run- ins with the poetry police (or I should say the Keystone Poetry Cops) - and just when you're wondering where the road leads, Biker Poets like Blaze Elliot and ChopperKate run up alongside you, and you hear their pipes, their engines blasting, and it makes you crack your throttle, stroke your pen, and chase after their words until at last the sun sets and you know its been a great run! (Check out two of my favorites, Kate's: Burn Out and Blaze's: I'm a chopper-wired baby).

    And this run is just the beginning of many more. In the works is QBall's & Sorez the Scribe's collective collage of words and photos that captures the biker lifestyle and the biker soul, the past and present, old school and riders of the new millenium. Check out QBalls to see promo's of "Living the Life."

    Stop awhile and read the Poets' Corner in Don Clady's Connecticut Cruise News each month, where Don publishes two or three (sometimes more) Biker Poets. The talent that is showcased each month by columnist Sorez the Scribe is worth checking out. Jodi Lipson of has also provided a lot of cyber-publication for bikerpoets over the years, but is presently experiencing technical problems with the site, but promises to have a spot for Biker Poets when it is back up and running. The Motorcyclists Post's Leo Castell has carried on the Post's support of Biker Poets by giving Gypsypashn a column to feature Biker Poets. Gypsypashn also keeps the wick burning in her own bikerbits newsletter where she often posts Biker Poets and their writings. Biker Jer keeps the momentum going in West Virginia and is mentioned in many Biker Poet blogs as promoting their work. QBall of Vtwinbiker has been said to have the largest cyber posting of Biker Poets and has recently given his accounting of Biker Poetry history in my own, Biker Poetry Comes of Age series published through RoadHousePress (

    Last but not least, be sure to keep up with Peddlar and the Highway Poets through Peddlar has published and promoted Biker Poets on stage, in the media, in columns, anthologies, chapbooks, magazine's, newspaper columns, interviews and by mentoring other Biker Poets into writing feature columns in a variety of venues. He has several chapbooks of his own and is an accomplished performance poet since at least the 1980s. Co-founder of the Highway Poets, Biker Poets and Writers Association, Founder of National Biker Poetry Month, former columnist for Poets' Corner (CT Cruise News), Bikerpoetry 101, 202 (, the Motorcyclists Post, and Co-founder of the Northshore's Wail Magazine, Founder of a variety of poetry open mics, including The North Star in Maine, and the list can just go on and on. Riding along with Peddlar is like blasting out of a cannon on a chopper and landing with the rubber side down.