Wong, Janet S. Behind the Wheel: Poems About Driving. NY: McElderry Books, 1999.
What I enjoy about Wong's poetry is that she plays with voices. I have to be careful or I'll miss it and miss the point of the poem. In "Plain and Simple," for example, the poet asks, "…would you know who I am?" after describing the car she drives: a "…rusting Civic, bland / nothing much to shout about--." Immediately following is the car's response: it may not be the Land Rover, the Avanti, nor the Citroen the poet dreams after, but it is a car to be counted on. If I read without paying mind, I'll think the poem stinks because it just doesn't make sense. Something else I appreciate is that much of the poetry is in free verse*. In the next poem, "Prisoner," Wong relies on sound and rhythm rather than rhyme or other more traditional poetic devices. There is a quickness in the repetition of the phrase "and you don't know" that mimics the mother's confusion and anxiety. In "Restraint," Wong is not writing from her vantage point but from that of a student who spent the day at a writing workshop with the poet who "…came / to visit our school / to make us write some poetry." The rest of the poem describes how this student is awed by a peer's use of imagery: parents as seatbelts, always wrapped around the kid, but perhaps there for safety's sake: and all the persona can come up with is parents as airbags, waiting for trouble to hit, and then they strike out, "in your face." There is a hidden depth to many of these poems. We just have to look for the treasures.
*Mary Oliver in A Poetry Handbook: A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry (1994) argues that free verse "is not, of course, free. It is free from formal metrical design, but it certainly isn't fee from some kind of design" (67).