3.5 out of 5 stars
War poetry has normally been set on the battlefield, the place where war and death were much more personal, tangible and raw. What Morgan has done here is to consider the position of those that were the hands-on people looking after the nuclear deterrent and considered how they felt about their role. For this, he has borrowed heavily from his father’s experience in the R. A. F. Airborne Nuclear Deterrent.
It is a long poem too, taking up the entire book, but he mixes prose and stanza to move between the different voices that he uses in the book. This change of pace in the various parts of the poem conveys many things, the pressure that the pilots were under as they carried their deadly cargo, the almost gallows humour that they had to not think about the consequences of them having to carry out the task they were employed to do as well as the secrecy of the task in hand.
At night he matches its motions to
the pulse of an atomic clock
where forward change is marked and set
by nuclear decay,
each measure to show how far we’ve come
how far we’ve still to go
It is a powerful poem, and it reminded me of the dread that I used to feel with the cold war in the early 1980s and the horrific promise of Mutually Assured Destruction that was almost palpable in the air at the time. I really liked the mix of styles throughout the book, it made it much more readable and fitted well with what he was doing by coming from different perspectives. This is the first of Morgan’s poetry books that I had read and I will definitely be reading more.