Atomic Atoll by Russell Brickey

Atomic Atoll

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Brickey’s poetry collection examines the consequences of weapons testing on the Bikini Atoll from a diversity of perspectives, including the displaced inhabitants of the islands, American political leaders, and pop-culture icons.

Using various structures and rhyme schemes—metered couplets, odes, free verse, screenplay format, etc.—Brickey (He Knows What a Stick Is, 2014, etc.) considers Operation Crossroads—two U.S. nuclear weapon tests on a atoll in the Marshall Islands in 1945—and its lasting consequences. Some of the most profound poems deal with how the American government “relocated” the indigenous population to another island 425 miles away—to an island with poor fishing, no lagoon, and no reef protection—before essentially turning the place they called home for generations into a radioactive wasteland. The propaganda machine was hitting on all cylinders when, from the poem “Emso Leviticus—A Found Monologue,” a newsreel from the time states: “The natives, a nomadic lot, are happy that the / Yanks are spicing things up.” This twisting of the truth, cloaking the power of mass destruction in myth and misinformation, is a strong motif throughout. Godzilla is appropriately referenced numerous times (“From this Godzilla stem birthed the Cold War…”) as the symbolic consequence of humankind’s folly with nuclear weapons. King Kong, on the other hand, is a fitting symbol for our appetite for self-destruction. From “Just Another Island”: “This is a manifestation of the Id—this ape monster. He loves. He destroys. He takes what he wants and treats his captive like an island princess. Not even the gods intervene. Meet the beast: A star is born.” The surreal fusion of post-apocalyptic imagery and historical data ultimately creates an experience that is simultaneously poignant and disconcerting.

Complemented by appropriately fiery biblical references throughout, this collection packs a megaton punch; a powerfully moving, witty, and sometimes-irreverent series.

Pub Date: Feb. 24th, 2015
Publisher: Wild Leaf Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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