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Poetry Xtras » "Mississinewa County Road" by Jared Carter

Poetry Xtras provide brief commentaries, cultural & literary sign posts, or anecdotes about poems featured on Poetry X, written by the poet or a critic expert in the poem.

We think of the American Midwest as a rural and agricultural world, and certainly it is that, but throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it was also an area of intense industrialization, urbanization, electrification, and technological development. The archeological evidence of such innovations abounds. In the late 1830s Ohio and Indiana were cris-crossed with dozens of canals in the attempt to form a vast inland system of waterways connecting the East Coast with the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The coming of the steam railway dispelled that particular dream. But the abandoned locks, overgrown channels and tow paths, and turnaround basins of those canals can still be discerned in the Midwest, often in seemingly remote and wild areas. Early in the twentieth century entrepreneurs created the "Interurban" network, a rail system of electrified passenger cars that for its time was one of the most extensive and advanced transportation systems in the world. It did not survive the Depression, and was displaced by automobiles and modern highways. But the remains of its bridges and its right-of-ways can still be discovered by the careful observer. The great railway empire itself, built up since the Civil War, has lately begun to diminish and slip away, its tracks abandoned, its depots and water towers falling into disrepair. But the physical evidence of these experiments and these changes can still be found at many points of travel in the Midwest.
—Jared Carter

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