- Poetry in Motion, does it move your soul to write? (Photo Triumph motorcycles)

Motorcycle Poetry

The Poetic Soul of the Motorcyclist exposed

Motorcycle literature has a long history, from TE Lawrence (Of Arabia) to modern tales of adventure travel by Lois Pryce, and it's not just prose that has a long history on the subject either. I started this tribe in November 2016 right at the very start of Drivetribe, it was originally as a continuation of my, admittedly mostly poor, motorcycle poetry which I was fond of posting on Twitter, occasionally swapping poems on there with James May. Motorcycle and biker related poetry is now an established form and I thought it might be interesting to talk about how it's developed and how anyone can write poems, even you and I.

Potted history of motorcycle poetry

Poetry written by motorcyclists specifically about their bikes and lifestyle first appeared in the late 1960s in America, with the mixing of cultures from hippies to biker groups. Hunter S. Thompson is credited with writing early motorcycle poetry, his success brought the idea to a wide audience, popularising the literary movement focussing on biker lifestyle with the publication of 'Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs'. Motorcycle based poetry has gone on developing since then and is popular, with a wide selection of books available to even the most casual of searches.

Who wouldn't be moved to poetry by this rare pre production Honda CB750?

Who wouldn't be moved to poetry by this rare pre production Honda CB750?

'Love is the feeling you get when you like something as much as your motorcycle'

Hunter S Thompson

Poets in this genre often use pseudonyms, some of the most well known American ones being 'The Holy Ranger' Dr. Martin Jack Rosenblum, and 'Joe Go' Jose Gouveia who produced a famous anthology 'Rubber Side Down' which I have reviewed previously on this tribe. There have also been a lot of women writing motorcycle poems, notably Diane Wakoski, who wrote a collection of poems known as 'The Motorcycle Betrayal Poems' dedicated to all men who had betrayed her.

Motorcycle poetry is now widely popular, with themed poetry days and even months held by different motorcycling organisations. Groups such as The Highway Poets Motorcycle Club have an international membership and the genre is a regular feature in motorcycle magazines and at motorcycle rallies.

Forms of motorcycle poetry

Motorcycle poetry has covered all forms of poems in its history. From fixed and free verse to 'Baiku' a form of Haiku.I particulary like the Haiku form as the rules help me a lot, I freely admit I'm not a very good poet and having the haiku rules to stick to helps me to produce something better than I otherwise would.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it 'Haiku' is a traditional form of Japanese poetry. Haiku poems consist of 3 lines, the first and last lines of a Haiku have 5 syllables and the middle line has 7 syllables, the lines rarely rhyme, but it is allowable.

Here's an example by James May which will give you the idea.

Gleaming Honda tank,

Curvature distorts my face,

Not so the slipstream.

May's silver tanked Honda C200 which may well have inspired his poem

May's silver tanked Honda C200 which may well have inspired his poem

It's not bad is it? You don't have to worry about how 'good' your poems are, you just need to be moved or inspired to do it, practice does help.

Development of themes

The perfect man? A poet on a motorcycle.

Lucinda williams

As motorcycle poetry originated in America early forms tended to cover similar themes to the cowboy poetry, portraying a romantic view of an American lifestyle. Early American biker poetry often discussed loneliness or the camaraderie only found with other bikers, motorcycle maintenance, though not necessairly Zen, and other issues which were often found in communities on the edge of society.

More recent motorcycle poetry has broadened its appeal and is now written by people across the world, with both serious and more comedic poems now popular.

Just have a go

Have you ever had a go at motorcycle poetry? I've been writing it for six years now as any of you who follow me on Twitter or the early days of this tribe will know. Give it a try and don't worry about it too much. The words will come.

This is one of my haiku/baiku written a couple of years ago:-

'Honda shine reflects,

Eager faced rider dismayed

Carb and hoped furred up'

Help me Honda, I need inspiration

Help me Honda, I need inspiration

Some of the frustration that the owner of an older bike might face summed up in 17 syllables.

Would you like to have a go? I'd love to hear any that you want to share in the comments below, whatever form you chose to write them in, comedic or serious. Have you ever read any motorcycle poetry and have some you would recommend? Come on, let's see if there are any poets amongst you!

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Comments (10)

  • The North West 200

    (A dangerous game)

    The crowds arrive, they've come to see

    Who'll win the prize, taste victory.

    Wide eyes focused, visor down,

    They'll fight to lead the pack around.

    Leather armour, beasts of steel,

    The race begins, wheel to wheel.

    A clear road and a blue sky,

    A blurred stampede charging by.

    Twist of the wrist, unleash the power,

    Exceed two hundred miles per hour.

    Slipstreaming in the highest gear,

    Then side by side they show no fear.

    Feel the presence, ghosts of legends

    Inspire the new generations,

    To live their lives at the red line,

    Give their all for the fastest time.

    High-octane courage gives them speed,

    It's in their blood, a timeless creed.

    Where tarmac bites and heroes lost,

    For those who win it's worth the cost.

    Warriors play a dangerous game,

    The great North West is their domain.

    Each year is an awesome story,

    On the fast coast road to glory.

    By Derek Lynn

      2 years ago
  • Let me take you on my motorbike

    At 100 miles per hour

    Hold on tight, it’ll be all right

    Just feel it’s throbbing power

      2 years ago
  • Do you write poetry too

      1 year ago
  • I wonder if that bearded chap with the Hell's Angel vest would like to hear a haiku.

      2 years ago
    • A lot of American biker poetry is written by people who are bearded chaps in Hells Angel vests. 'Joe Go' Jose Gouveia a famous American biker poet is just exactly that man.

        2 years ago
    • I wonder if some of them are opera singers too.

        2 years ago