By R. Scott Bakker,Tor Forge, $24.95, 286 pages
“Small towns, man. You gotta love them. Big enough to pretend. Too small to be.”
Nick Flynn is the author of two previous poetry collections and is a professor at the University of Houston. The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands is his third poetry collection and his first publication in ten years.
Flynn’s poems incorporate themes of persecution, torture, imprisonment, and the human experience. One of the most moving series of poems is titled seven testimonies (redacted). It is based on the testimonies of Abu Ghraib detainees, some of whom he met personally. Full portions of the transcriptions can be found in the endnotes. Flynn uses the prisoners’ own words and omits phrases to create a fragmented poem which ends up sounding like the words and thoughts of someone suffering from extreme deprivation.
Flynn’s endnotes help further explain each poem and mention his inspirations (poems, films, songs). He also responds to mass media sources, memories, and post-9/11 reports. I see his poetry more as a cathartic experience he went through during the writing process. It is an interesting read, but I’d recommend it mainly to people who have interest in the topic or who are fans of the poet.
Reviewed by Kathryn Franklin