Hettie Jones was one of the “minor characters” identified by Joyce Johnson in her ironically reflective memoir about her own experiences and those of several other women associated with Jack Kerouac and some of the other male “superstars” of the Beat Generation. The wife of the poet LeRoi Jones (now Amiri Baraka), Hettie Jones’s own recollection of those years, HOW I BECAME HETTIE JONES (1990), was accurately described as “possibly the best account yet written of what it was like to be at the center of New York bohemianism in the 1950s and 1960s” by Russell Banks, and it revealed just how much Hettie Jones (among other women) was a partner and collaborator in the artistic and literary enterprise that shaped a cultural epoch.
Although Jones was temporarily eclipsed by the flamboyant intensity of men like Kerouac, Baraka and Allen Ginsberg, her own wit, insight, and energy were an important component of the “Beat Scene,” and as the poems in DRIVE indicate, her abilities as a writer were comparable to theirs, if momentarily restricted by the other activities (wife, mother, muse, activist) that demanded all of her attention.
DRIVE, significantly entitled both as an emblem of her determination and as a literal description of her appropriation of the masculine symbol of mobility and virility—the automobile which enabled the Beats to get “on the road”—begins with a section that establishes her identity as “The Woman In...
(The entire section is 413 words.)