KWH Pick of the Week: “I’m Glorious in My Destruction like an Atomic Bomb,” by Diane Seuss, Chosen by Rachel Swearingen

Posted on November 4, 2013


Knox Writers’ House Contributor’s Pick of the Week 11/3/2013

I’m Glorious in My Destruction like an Atomic Bomb by Diane Suess in Kalamazoo, MI

Chosen by Rachel Swearingen in Kalamazoo, MI who says:

I wanted to choose a story by a writer I’d never met before, so I combed through the Knox Writer House archives, listening for hours. I discovered some wonderful stories, but I found myself returning to Di Seuss’s poem, “I’m Glorious in My Destruction like an Atomic Bomb,” just to hear it one more time. In Kalamazoo, Di is a bit of a legend. Long before I actually met her, people were telling me to read her book Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open, which I did, cover to cover over a period of a few nights. The fiction writer in me thrills at how much Seuss packs into this particular poem. It’s a lesson in modulation and so much more. The language is both lush and brutal. I could go on and on about my favorite bits: “even then my mouth open like a bullet hole in a picture window,” “I folded up like an ironing board,” or “a tangled sullied wilderness scarified with highways.” In the poem, a young woman is picked up from the Amtrak station by her cousin and told she looks “more ravaged than I expected.” Seuss ravages the word “ravaged” then, so much so that by the end of the poem, we are left not with the young man’s gaze on the girl, but with the woman’s gaze turned back at the girl she was and what she will endure over the next thirty years. Seuss manages to evoke the public and the private here, as well as the political and the historical. She takes apart the idea of beautiful and ruined, and through her language manages to leave me both with a feeling of tired despair and exulted survival. Listening to this poem is like watching a film noir train station scene, only better. I see a train screeching to a halt, a woman stepping off into the exhaust, in red lipstick and a too-tight, belted dress–only this time the film is narrated by the woman herself. 

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