Exclusive – never-before-published photos and messages from Christmas Island.
Do you remember when we got advice from our government about what to do if they ‘dropped the big one’?
There was something about unscrewing doors, wasn’t there? and building shelters by leaning them against walls. There was something about drainpipes and brown paper. And for me, there was something about being a kid at that time that helped to make it into a gigglesome comedy, that idea that when Armageddon struck, we’d all leap into Blue Peter sticky-back-plastic-and-yoghurt-pots mode and get creative in the cellar.
Years later, I discovered that small armies of be-suited people had been clicking around so smoothly in their bureaucratic systems that they’d efficiently tested out what would happen to us – tested it on real people, birds, animals, whole island worlds, and then spent years more bureaucratically assimilating and filing away the consequences.
Poet Jocelyn Simms has just (metaphorically) blown those files wide open.
THE BOMB THAT CHANGED THE WORLD
– said Roger Elkin, The clear, direct and focused writing collectively challenges the reader with the moral imperative to ‘face the mushroom cloud’.
It’s time to re-visit that process, to put the human, the personal, the political back in – and for me, the way to do it turned out to be through editing and producing Jocelyn Simms’ startling assemblage of poetry, historical notes and amateur photographs, Tickling the Dragon.
As Jocelyn Simms notes in the introduction to her brilliant book, these poems bear testimony to the potentially devastating risks involved in the testing and production of nuclear weapons. She explores the subject of Hiroshima and its aftermath in poems of sensitivity and tact. ‘Fires erupt in the carcass of Hiroshima, a boiling/rainbow/’ Graphic and frightening.
As reader, one never forgets that at the back of the development of these man-made weapons is the real question of their use, of nuclear annihilation and the destruction of civilization as we know it. The tone throughout is alert, dramatic, balanced, shot through with evocative imagery and ironies,and capped with ominous photographs of Christmas Island’s 1958 mushroom cloud. – Katherine Gallagher
It’s the postcards home that do it for me. Tickling the Dragon features the first publication of a collection of snapshots and messages from some cheerful young soldiers, doing what young soldiers do to entertain themselves when parked in exotic places around the world. FRYING TONIGHT! FISSION CHIPS! read the sign on the cook’s oven on Christmas Island.
…buy this collection; savour and re‐read it; share it; champion it, and let it help to shape for good the wider world. – Roger Elkin
Tickling the dragon
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