Plume: Poems

Paperback | October 11, 2013

byKathleen Flenniken

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The poems in Plume are nuclear-age songs of innocence and experience set in the "empty" desert West. Award-winning poet Kathleen Flenniken grew up in Richland, Washington, at the height of the Cold War, next door to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where "every father I knew disappeared to fuel the bomb," and worked at Hanford herself as a civil engineer and hydrologist. By the late 1980s, declassified documents revealed decades of environmental contamination and deception at the plutonium production facility, contradicting a lifetime of official assurances to workers and their families that their community was and always had been safe. At the same time, her childhood friend Carolyn's own father was dying of radiation-induced illness: "blood cells began to err one moment efficient the next / a few gone wrong stunned by exposure to radiation / as [he] milled uranium into slugs or swabbed down / train cars or reported to B Reactor for a quick run-in / run-out." Plume, written twenty years later, traces this American betrayal and explores the human capacity to hold truth at bay when it threatens one's fundamental identity. Flenniken observes her own resistance to facts: "one box contains my childhood / the other contains his death / if one is true / how can the other be true?"

The book's personal story and its historical one converge with enriching interplay and wide technical variety, introducing characters that range from Carolyn and her father to Italian physicist Enrico Fermi and Manhattan Project health physicist Herbert Parker. As a child of "Atomic City," Kathleen Flenniken brings to this tragedy the knowing perspective of an insider coupled with the art of a precise, unflinching, gifted poet.

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The poems in Plume are nuclear-age songs of innocence and experience set in the "empty" desert West. Award-winning poet Kathleen Flenniken grew up in Richland, Washington, at the height of the Cold War, next door to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where "every father I knew disappeared to fuel the bomb," and worked at Hanford herself...

Format:PaperbackDimensions:80 pages, 9.25 × 6.14 × 0.26 inPublished:October 11, 2013Publisher:University Of Washington PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0295993901

ISBN - 13:9780295993904

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Campaign Q&A, Somewhere in Oregon, May 18, 2008

My Earliest Memory Preserved on Film

Rattlesnake Mountain

Map of Childhood

A Great Physicist Recalls the Manhattan Project

Bedroom Community

Document Control

Mosquito Truck

Herb Parker Feels Like Dancing

Richland Dock, 2006

Days of Clotheslines

Whole-Body Counter, Marcus Whitman Elementary

Plume

To Carolyn’s Father

Afternoon’s Wide Horizon

Redaction I

Green Run

Bird’s Eye View

Richland Dock, 1956

On Cottonwood Drive

Self-Portrait with Father as Tour Guide

Interlude for Dancers

Redaction II

Augean Suite

Siren Recognition

Hand and Foot Count

Atomic Man

Radiation!

The Value of Good Design

Again I’m Asked if I Glow in the Dark

The Cold War

Going Down

Reading Wells

Redaction III

Deposition

Song of the Secretary, Hot Lab

Flow Chart

Coyote

Museum of Doubt

Dinner with Carolyn Portrait of My Father

Museum of a Lost America

If You Can Read This

Notes Acknowledgments About the Poet A Note on the Type

Editorial Reviews

The poems in Plume are nuclear-age songs of innocence and experience set in the "empty" desert West. Award-winning poet Kathleen Flenniken grew up in Richland, Washington, at the height of the Cold War, next door to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where "every father I knew disappeared to fuel the bomb," and worked at Hanford herself as a civil engineer and hydrologist. By the late 1980s, declassified documents revealed decades of environmental contamination and deception at the plutonium production facility, contradicting a lifetime of official assurances to workers and their families that their community was and always had been safe. At the same time, her childhood friend Carolyn's own father was dying of radiation-induced illness: "blood cells began to err one moment efficient the next / a few gone wrong stunned by exposure to radiation / as [he] milled uranium into slugs or swabbed down / train cars or reported to B Reactor for a quick run-in / run-out." Plume, written twenty years later, traces this American betrayal and explores the human capacity to hold truth at bay when it threatens one's fundamental identity. Flenniken observes her own resistance to facts: "one box contains my childhood / the other contains his death / if one is true / how can the other be true?"The book's personal story and its historical one converge with enriching interplay and wide technical variety, introducing characters that range from Carolyn and her father to Italian physicist Enrico Fermi and Manhattan Project health physicist Herbert Parker. As a child of "Atomic City," Kathleen Flenniken brings to this tragedy the knowing perspective of an insider coupled with the art of a precise, unflinching, gifted poet.The beautifully wrought poems in Plume are as well—tuned morally as they are musically. And their lamentations are epic: hubris and its disastrous consequences, love and betrayal, human folly, human fragility.... Plume is an enormously important and moving work of art. - Sharon Bryan, author of Sharp Stars