The Cloud That Contained the Lightning
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The Cloud That Contained the Lightning


Title Details

Pages: 80

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 09/15/2013

ISBN: 9-780-8203-4564-2

List Price: $20.95

The Cloud That Contained the Lightning


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  • Description
  • Reviews

Using the character of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb,” as a jumpingoff point, The Cloud That Contained the Lightning explores the kinds of ethical choices we face as individuals and as a society with respect to the innovations and inventions we pursue. How are our fears, obsessions, prejudices, and cultures manifested in the ways we apply new technologies, such as the splitting of the atom? What were the attitudes that resulted in such a destructive invention? What prompted it to be used on a nation suspected to already be defeated?

By weaving together the voices of Oppenheimer, his wife and brother, hibakusha (Japanese for “explosion-affected people”), and the mythological figures of Cronos and his children, Lowen creates a dialogue out of a vacuum of communication and imagines the kind of exchanges that might have led to a different outcome than the tragedies at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And in an exploration of our tendency for selective amnesia, this collection asks a critical question: How quickly will the forgotten lessons of the past allow us to repeat the tragic chapters of our history?

In The Cloud That Contained the Lightning the unstable walls of the human heart meet the intimate walls of atomic energy. There is decay. There is bloom. Cynthia Lowen skillfully and fiercely tunnels into the world and mind of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, observes, magically imagines, and then maps forward a critical American life. The historical dust of what intimately did and did not happen in 1945 settles alphabetically on us all. With sensual probing and stark probability Lowen and The Cloud That Contained the Lightning resurrect the questions that human beings will forever face and only clear lovely poetry can answer: What can we see from where we stand? Whose fingers clutch the ropes that could always drop the curtain? We need this graceful work.

—Nikky Finney, author of Head Off & Split

Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, was a pivotal and tragic figure in twentieth-century American life. No biographer in six hundred pages has come closer to understanding him—and the bomb—than does Cynthia Lowen in these subtle, resonant poems.

—Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Tough minded, mordant, and oracular, many poems in this book speak through the persona of J. Robert Oppenheimer—but as if he were a revenant and had come back to haunt our contemporary world. His comments on our social and political and spiritual arrangements make up a kind of shadow autobiography fraught with dread, nuclear threat, and a sense of the absurd. Zbigniew Herbert’s Mr. Cogito has found his American counterpart.

—Tom Sleigh, author of Army Cats

About the Author/Editor

CYNTHIA LOWEN has an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She was selected for inclusion in Best New Poets 2008 and is a recipient of the Campbell Corner Poetry Prize and a winner of the “Discovery”/ Boston Review Poetry Contest. She served as a screenwriter and producer of the 2011 documentary Bully.