Physics of Trajectory

Ed Roberson

A kid rolls the windowthe rest the way downand spits at us.what's the physicsfor       I am passed spatat?           past                  but yetevery time I getthe cold straydrop of somebody'swindshield wash spraythe passed think it never reachesyou    yetthe pastdoesn't have to.       you are reached                      what'sthe physicsfor alreadythere in the future?

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Ed Roberson’s eleven previous books of poetry include Asked What Has Changed (2021) and the Los Angeles Times Book Award finalist and Kingsley-Tufts Award runner-up To See the Earth before the End of the World (2010), both from Wesleyan University Press. A former Special Programs administrator at Rutgers University’s Cook Campus, Roberson has lived in Chicago since 2004 and is an emeritus professor in Northwestern University’s MFA creative writing program. He has also held posts at the University of Chicago, Columbia College, the University of California, Berkeley, and the Cave Canem retreat for Black writers. His honors include the Jackson Poetry Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, and the African American Literature and Culture Association’s Stephen Henderson Critics Award. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Roberson has worked as a limnologist (assisting research on inland and coastal freshwater systems in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and in Bermuda), as a diver for the Pittsburgh Aquazoo, in an advertising graphics agency, and in the Pittsburgh steel mills. As an expedition member of the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh, he climbed mountains in the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Andes. In addition to the motorcycle trip across the United States on which this book is based, Roberson’s travels include sojourns in Mexico, West Africa, and the Caribbean.

In 2015, while, in his words, "dismantling my house in New Jersey and preparing it for sale," Ed Roberson discovered in some envelopes in his attic a manuscript he thought lost, drawn from the experiences of the summer of 1970, when the poet, along with two friends, rode cross-country from Pittsburgh to San Francisco and back on two BMW motorcycles. The recovery of this manuscript—over forty years later—alerted Roberson to the fact that he had been relating to its material ever since, yielding for him work that "calls across the span of a lifetime." MPH is Roberson's epic, serial road poem, decades in the making, stamped with and guided by the talisman of its title. "one thing visible every day / any time 24/7 / for 3 months 8000 miles / was mph // on the speedometer. / a small petty thing. / a pin. / down of a larger / limiting. // a sighting an ideograph / even more than a picture beyond word."

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