After spending time in Turkey interviewing former Abu Ghraib detainees, it is clear the experiences there had a profound and lasting effect not only on Nick Flynn himself but also upon his writing. As was the case in his memoir, The Ticking Is the Bomb, his poetry collection, The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands, is predominantly informed by the subject of torture. Flynn's poems, both engrossing and affecting, are possessed by a determined candor. A rhythmic devotion to the consideration and confrontation of dark truths compels the reader ever deeper.
The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands contains nearly two dozen poems organized into three parts. The collection, however, seems to work best as a whole, with each poem adding to the inertia of the others. That Flynn musters the courage to continue on in his exploration of torture, as well as its implications beyond the individual, demonstrates a concern for morality absent in the works of many (most?) of his contemporaries. While writers and poets from other countries have long contemplated this abhorrent practice (as both the tortured and the torturer), few Americans have sought to brave the subject, let alone denounce it. Whether one cares for the cadence and style of Flynn's poems or not, the fortitude it took to craft a collection so unflinching as this one should be readily apparent. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Now in paperback, the latest poetry by Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City and The Ticking Is the Bomb
The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands begins as a meditation on love and the body but soon breaks down into a collage of voices culled from media reports, childhood memories, testimonies from Abu Ghraib detainees, passages from documentary films, overheard conversations, and scraps of poems and song, only to reassemble with a gathering sonic force. Its as if all the noise that fills our days were a storm, yet at the center is a quiet place, but to get there you must first pass through the storm, with eyes wide open, singing. Each poem becomes a hallucinatory, shifting experience, through jump cut, lyric persuasion, and deadpan utterance. This is an emotional, resilient response to some of the essential issues of our day by Nick Flynn, one of Americas riskiest and most innovative writers.
“An unflinching attempt to use poetry to grapple with some of the most shameful monsters of this new century—the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib and the terrible cost war enacts on everyone caught up in it, both civilians and soldiers.” —The Rumpus
“Flynns poems unnerve and devastate; theirs is a terrible beauty, indeed.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Each word is a lit match, a thrown stone, a howling blast, a choking torrent. Flynn has forged daringly intimate and clarion poems of conscience.” —Booklist
“[Flynn] sets for himself the task of discovering poetry appropriate to our time, an era of sanctioned torture and protracted wars . . . With The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands, Flynn faces some of the difficult questions and confusions of our time, and he challenges poetry to face itself, as well.” —The Houston Chronicle
About the Author
Nick Flynn is the author of three poetry collections, including Some Ether, and three memoirs, including Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, adapted to the screen as Being Flynn. He teaches at the University of Houston, and divides his time between Houston and New York.