From Kitty Hawk to the jumbo jet and from the lunar landing to interstellar probes, American poets in On the Wing explore the phenomena of aviation and space flight. Edited by Karen Yelena Olsen, this balanced yet buoyant anthology collects 116 poems. The six thematic sections celebrate past achievements and the sensuous joys of flying (“Impulse of Delight”), revel in the vistas opening to the airborne traveler (“Worlds Above, Below, Within”), ponder the impact of air travel on everyday life (“Airplane Visions, Airport Truths”), outline the sinister role of the airplane in war (“Angle of Attack”), lament the shadow of airborne tragedy (“Icarus Falling”), and explore the mythic dimensions of space flight (“Space Odysseys”).
Olsen’s introduction traces the prehistory of flight literature from the Bible to the 19th century and sketches the evolution of 20th-century response, from initial exuberance to a more nuanced and probing examination of aviation and aerospace as they affect our lives. The book includes a short history of flight in the U.S. The product of a lifetime’s passion for both flight and poetry, this collection will deeply interest those who have never been on a plane—and delight those who have.