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James Dean and the Beautiful Machine

poems by Tracy Ross

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In her second poetry collection—James Dean and the Beautiful Machine—Tracy Ross plays with the effects of postindustrial, data-info culture on the human psyche, our aspirations for the future, and our heritage of the past. Along with James Dean, there are appearances by Elvis, Jim Morrison, James Baldwin, and Dylan Thomas. A brilliant commentary on modern life; a deep-rooted yearning for salvation.

POETRY / General

ISBN: 978-1-951651-12-1 (print; softcover; perfect bound)

LCCN: 2020932532

Released February 2020

108 pages

Author Biography

Tracy Ross is the author of Certainty of One—A Tale of Education Automation (Adelaide Books, 2018). James Dean and the Beautiful Machine is her second poetry collection, following her first release, Broken Signals—Trials of Disconnect (Shanti Arts, 2018). Ross was influenced early on by the dark comedy of Stanley Kubrick and the cryptic work of William Faulkner. (“I was exposed too early to the work of Charles Bukowski that it ruined my life forever . . . in a good way.”) When asked how she would describe herself and her work, she explained, “Above all else, I want to be seen as an existential optimist because after all, it takes more courage to laugh at the rain than to cry in it . . . either way, you’re going to get wet.” In her current work, James Dean and the Beautiful Machine, she plays quite seriously with the effects of postindustrial, data-info culture on the human psyche, our aspirations for the future, and our heritage of the past. She is currently writing a collection of essays on popular culture as well as her next poetic work. She is a recent graduate of Augsburg University’s MFA Program and currently lives and works in Minnesota.


The poems in Tracy Ross’s James Dean and the Beautiful Machine survey a forgotten American landscape of family farms on the verge of foreclosure and Rust Belt cities still reeling from the loss of industry—all trying to catch up to the digital age which pressures us to . . .

Buy the machine.
Merge with the program.
Or be left behind, deleted.

From accurately documenting office culture as . . .

his balancing act
between conversations
at the watercooler
and the reality
that we’d all rather be
skipping stones,
watching ripples alone

. . . to capturing the dramatic irony of a hospital’s instructions to save a paper form or lose all of your rights, to broadcasting the economic inequity of “the Lexus guy” complaining to the victim of a bicycle crash about the blood on his door, Ross vividly captures the absurdities of modern life. Along with James Dean, Elvis makes an appearance, as do Jim Morrison and James Baldwin, as the poems shine a light on life in the post-Vietnam and post-Great Recession heartland. Throughout, hope appears via respectful attention to humble details . . .

The ducks in formation
within your stained wallpaper,

. . . and culminates in the loving care of an adult daughter seeing to a parent’s comfort in hospice.

I can read my way out of here,

vows the speaker of one poem, underscoring the determination to carry on and the vow to find support through art and literature.

Fearless, urgent, and judicious, Ross’s poems are an important call to take stock and take action.
—James Cihlar, author of The Shadowgraph

Articles and Reviews


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