The Shape of Things to Come: Poems
Poetry collection about the first atomic bomb.
"In his deeply moving new collection, The Shape of Things to Come: Poems, John Blair offers us penetrating meditation on the Manhattan Project and its consequences, in terms both historically recuperative and, mindful of a cautionary anxiety, deeply psychological. Here the author borrows from a communal legacy of ancient story to situate the bomb, in spite and in light of its break with the past, as both an illumination of human nature and a shift of mythical scope and weight. In light of the new Zeitgeist and a threat as extreme as ever and yet faded from conversation, this book breathes new life into a much-needed public understanding. With lyric ingenuity and grace, it asks us to weigh once more the 'sword' hammered by a 'three-fissioned God' as one might 'words against a future in which every/ prayer is for requital.' A profound achievement."
—Bruce Bond, author of Immanent Distance: Poetry and the Metaphysics of the Near at Hand and For the Lost Cathedral
"The Shape of Things to Come: Poems, John Blair’s deeply considered and deeply felt exploration of the creation of the atomic bomb, takes its epigraph from Ginsberg, and Blair is clearly among Ginsberg’s heirs. Blair’s research is meticulous, but these poems are more candescence than history; their needle hangs, quivering, in perfect balance between beautiful and awful; their caesuras and fragments constantly disrupt what can be said and understood with the stutters of what never can be. This riveting work brings together the best qualities of both narrative and lyric to illuminate everything, past and present, in the blinding blaze of atomic Moloch, 'a sun /…rising too bright to see & burning / hot enough to sear away even this lonely unendurable world.'”
—Catherine Carter, author of Larvae of the Nearest Stars and Marks of the Witch
"Building upon the achievements of his previous work, Playful Song Called Beautiful, John Blair, in In The Shape of Things to Come: Poems, investigates the soul of humanity through the destruction of the 20th century, centering on the Ground Zero of the Trinity test in the Jornada del Muerto desert, 'counting down from nothing /at all to everything.' It’s a tour of history both closely rendered, from a description of a child riding a bus to the voice of a town manager, and large in ambition, where science clothes us 'like kings or prophets bearing /wonderful unspeakable gifts,' succeeding wonderfully in both."
—John Gallaher, author of the Levis Poetry Prize–winner The Little Book of Guessesand Map of the Folded World
"From the creation of the atomic bombs to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, effectively putting an end to World War II, the details have been well documented in the history books. No text, however, has captured the magnitude of this creation-to-execution process in the way that Blair’s compilation has, with its deeply crafted insight combined with an unwavering command of narrative poetry. . . Perhaps with even more clarity than history books, Blair strips away all the excess and sheds light on the key points during the birth of the atomic bomb: The Trinity Project, Ebb Cade’s doomed existence, and bringing 'Gadget' to fruition from 'Ground Zero.' . . Ultimately, the work is exemplary in every way, peeling back a time of world history that many still deem highly controversial and imbuing it with vibrant imagery, creating a tapestry that highlights the interwoven nature of ambition and calamity."
RECOMMENDED by the US Review of Books by Mihir Shah
John Blair has published six books, most recently Playful Song Called Beautiful (University of Iowa Press, 2016) as well as poems & stories in The Colorado Review, Poetry, The Sewanee Review, The Antioch Review, New Letters, and elsewhere. His seventh book, The Aphelion Elegies, was published by Main Street Rag Press.