The Drunken Driver Has the Right of Way
Ethan Coen
(Crown Publishers)

For all Coen brothers devotees, Ethan Coen has expanded his repetoir into poetry. The strength of his verse is in the humor and cleverly aligned words: "We tie his ties now; Mr. Sands/Cannot knot knots, not having any hands." Unfortunately, too much of the book is given over to limericks, and most of the poems lean on cloying, archaic Edward Gorey-inspired language and rhymes, ("Our Mr. Sands was neat at tea/But finished, he'd rise instantly/And bow, adjusting his cravat/Then fly up to his third-floor flat"). Several poems are quasi-tributes, spoof-ish ditties that thinly re-work single elements of more complicated poets, such as Bukowski. Coen acknowledges his shortcomings in "Lament": "I doubt if Shakespeare, Sophocles/Or Keats wrote dipshit lineslike these./With minds so dull and thoughts so small/I wonder I get by at all..."

There's entertainment in the comedy, and word play rarely challenged by depth. If you like these, make sure to read the precursors: Stevie Smith, Philip Larkin, and Charles Bukowski, to name a few.