The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Bomb” is an extended dramatic monologue presented as shaped verse in the form of the mushroom cloud of an atomic blast. The title refers to the object addressed in the poem. The speaker talks to the silent atomic bomb, comparing it with the other works and practices of humankind, declaring the bomb worthy of laughter, admiration, and love.

“Bomb” opens as the speaker begins the address, exclaiming, “You Bomb/ Toy of Universe Grandest of all snatched-sky I cannot hate you.” How, the speaker wonders, can he hate the bomb in particular when no similar hate is felt for the thunderbolt, the caveman’s club, Leonardo Da Vinci’s catapult, or Cochise’s tomahawk? Indeed, the speaker asks, “[H]ath not St. Michael a burning sword St. George a lance David a sling[?]” The bomb is, after all, “no crueller than cancer.”

To all others, death in any other form, whether “car-crash lightning drowning/ Falling off a roof electric-chair heart attack” or “old age old age,” is better than death by the bomb, but to the speaker, the bomb is “Death’s jubilee/ Gem of Death’s supremest blue.” The speaker imagines the effect of the atomic blast on pedestrians and subway riders in Manhattan but quickly lets imagination soar, envisioning “Turtles exploding over Istanbul” and “The top of the Empire State/ arrowed in a broccoli field in Sicily.” With the atomic blast, the ruins of antiquity, the structures of...

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Bomb Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The most obvious device in “Bomb” is the shaping of the poem to give it the pictorial impression of a nuclear mushroom cloud. The top section of the poem is round like the top of an atomic blast, while the portion beneath is tapered like the stem of the cloud rising from the earth. In using shaped verse, Corso makes the design of his poem conform to the object of the poem’s focus. If the poem is read as part of The Happy Birthday of Death (1960), the illustration of the atomic blast on the volume’s cover provides additional emphasis on the appearance of the detonated bomb. Furthermore, the title of the volume suggests that “Bomb” is about the birthday of the bomb, or “Death’s jubilee,” the anniversary of the explosion of the nuclear weapon over Japan in August, 1945, and that this birthday, at least in the surprisingly playful mind of the speaker, is a happy occasion. However, if the poem is read in Mindfield: New and Selected Poems (1989), the visual impression of the original broadside or the subsequent foldout is lost.

A second feature of “Bomb” is the dramatic situation, in which Corso exploits the apostrophe, making the speaker address an object that cannot literally answer. With the apostrophe, the poem becomes a dramatic monologue well suited for a live reading, especially by Corso himself, whose talents as a reader lend themselves well to comedy based on the improbable personification of a nuclear weapon.

A third feature...

(The entire section is 610 words.)