ROUTE 66 … Open Road For Promiseland – DRIVING


‘The essence of ROUTE 66’ … This is a phrase used to describe a collection of poems by John Powls, with accompanying Images by Carol Ballenger/Google Earth.   ‘ROUTE 66: Open Road to Promiseland’ has recently been published in a volume of this British poet’s journey along this iconic North American road.route66c

I quote from the introduction to this book of poems . . .

Steinbeck, the ultimate writer on travel across America’s vastness, gets nearest to answering the question that many ask those of us afflicted with wanderlust – Why?

 We journey to fulfil a longing that our imagination alone cannot satisfy. it is essential to have seen the shimmering heat rising from the endless blacktop, to have smelt the sage as evening draws shadows across distant peaks, to have heard the ticking motor as it cools.

This is the stuff of John Powls’ poems, glimpses from the corner of the poet’s eye woven into an odyssey as ancient as Homer’s, yet as immediate as Carol Ballenger’s photographs grabbed from Google’s eye. Together these contain the essence of Route 66, a journey fulfilled not through reaching its end but through memories of what was, what might have been.

I have previously quoted one of John Powls’ poems in an article on the ‘The Touchstone’ (q.v.), erected near Princeton on Dartmoor in millennium year. 

Over the next two days, I am, with John’s permission, presenting two of his poems from ‘ROUTE 66’ to give a taste of his experience as he journeyed, an Englishman abroad, fulfilling a lifelong ambition, along America’s ROUTE 66.



Navajo Nation, Arizona and Utah

The Navajo Nation
From Chelly Canyon
To Monument Valley
Across Arizona
Clipping Utah

It is  not pretty
But my word
It is beautiful
And burns
Its insistent way
Onto memory
And by heart

Riding the road
Rolling ridges
Horizon to horizon
To Vanishing Point
Silver skylinings
Shining through
The play of light
Show and shadow
Sets aside
Even concrete highway
Designs on

Pulsing with longing
The tyres
Kerouac kerouac
Kerouac kerouac
The blacktop beat
Until the words
Lose meaning
For new notes
Written without

Radio silence
Solo shoutsinging
An unaccompanied scatsong
Time signature by
Broken yellow median

A non-routine routine
Its a driving
I inhabit
Day in
Day out
Without doubt


The full title of the book is ‘ROUTE 66 : OPEN ROAD FOR PROMISELAND’
. . . ISBN 978 1 906690 64 7

Copyright      John Powls – Poems 2016
Copyright      Carol Ballenger – Images 2016
Published by Halstar (   The book is available for purchase from (USA); (UK) or ordered via a bookshop who would get it from the publisher at  


The Waterfall


Canonteign Falls, Dartmoor, Devon . . .  Pen & Wash by WHB


Humble in its origins
on the heather moor
rolling gently down towards
the valley’s deep green floor

Suddenly the land gives way
beneath its watery tread
and  leads it down the rocky face
towards the river bed

Down the limestone outcrop
over mossy stones
beside the yellowing bracken
it bubbles sighs and moans

Until at last its downward race
is given a pause for rest
before it has to carry  on
with renewed force and zest.


The Touchstone

This poem is inscribed on the  MILLENNIUM  STONE,  the first menhir to be erected on Dartmoor for many years. It stands on the open moor near Princetown, Devon.

The Touchstone


This stone touching

Open moor and sky

Granite land mark

Raised to stand

For all times

As one time;

Now, then and ever

In love and beauty

Our story is a book

Always open

At the centre

Half of experiences

Half of

Un-named hopes.



‘John Powls … Poet
AD 2000’

(Poem and inscription submitted by the author)

The fuller explanation printed below is an extract from  the ‘Legendary Dartmoor’ website at:  The Touchstone, Dartmoor


. . .  this menhir is probably the first one to be erected on Dartmoor since the Bronze Age. To mark the millennium, John Powls decided it would be a fitting monument to celebrate the new century with and put his idea to the National Park. At the time John Powls was the ‘poet in residence’ with the national park and so he wrote a poem to be inscribed on the stone. The stone was erected on Rundlestone Crest during the summer solstice in 1999. There was then a dedication ceremony held during the winter solstice in December 1999. The stone for the menhir came from the old prison quarry where Powls was the one-time governor and the poem was carved on it by Kevin Andrews of Polzeath in Cornwall. The touchstone stands at a proud 2 metres from the ground.