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Witnessing the Wasteland: Sight, Sound and Response in Edith Sitwell’s “Three Poems of the Atomic Age.”; Meeting in the Meadow; & The Twins

O. J. Cade, Elana Santana

Abstract


The place where the scientific meets the poetic underwent a transformation when atomic bombs were used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945. Primed to images of apocalypse and destruction by the 1922 publication of T.S. Eliot’s "The Waste Land," poets found themselves in a position where life imitated art. Like their fellow citizens, poets were witness to a scientific revolution—one that began with Rutherford splitting the atom and ended with a more efficient and competent slaughter than anything previously experienced. Lehmann comments that “the war, in the end, found its voices in the work of many poets and novelists; but the peace, the victory, the defeat, the bewilderment in defeat and the heart-breaking disappointment in victory, the apocalyptic manifestation of atomic power—the poets seemed too long to have been too dazed to think of them” (30). His one exception is Edith Sitwell who confronted the atom bomb in her “Three Poems of the Atomic Age” (Collected Poems 368-378): for Sitwell built a narrative about the bombing—not so much a narrative of events, but of understanding, as she confronted the moral consequences of this new capacity for destruction. Sitwell’s “Three Poems” include “Dirge of the New Sunrise,” which describes the moment the atomic bomb was dropped upon Hiroshima; “The Canticle of the Rose,” which uses the symbolism of a rose growing out of the atomic wasteland as a metaphor for Jesus Christ; and “The Shadow of Cain,” which Sitwell describes as being “about the fission of the world into warring particles, destroying and self-destructive” (Collected Poems xlii).
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THE TWINS. Elana Santana.


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MANAGING EDITORS   Sarah Iannicello, Benjamin J. Kapron

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UNDERCURRENTS EDITORIAL COLLECTIVE - VOL. 20 (2017): ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

VOL 20 CFP PRIMARY AUTHOR   Ronak Ghorbani Nejad

SCHOLARLY REVIEW TEAM   James Arruda, Nicole Beuglet, Julie Chamberlain, Aadita Chaudhury, Amanda Di Battista, Kesha Fevrier, Sarah Iannicello, Adam Linnard, Jessica Lukawiecki, Jacob McLean, Michaela McMahon, Indra Singh

CREATIVE REVIEW TEAM   Nicole Beuglet, Amanda Di Battista, Sarah Iannicello, Morgan Johnson, Kelly King, Andrew Mark, Eva Mencin, Indra Singh

COPY EDITORS   Sarah Iannicello, Benjamin J. Kapron, Rachel Lam, Anthony Sandre

LAYOUT AND DESIGN   Benjamin J. Kapron, Kelly King, Scott Lillico, Max Meyer

GRADUATE ASSISTANTS   Sarah Iannicello, Adam Linnard, Jessica Lukawiecki, Jacob McLean

TREASURER   Jeffrey Zavala

PRINTER   York University Printing Services, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto ON  M3J 1P3 printing@yorku.ca

FUNDING SUPPORT   Faculty of Environmental Studies (York University), PhD Environmental Studies Student Association

SPECIAL THANKS TO   Nina de Jesus, Amanda Di Battista, Ruben Esguerra, Steve Glassman, Darren Patrick, Lily Piccone, Dr. Catriona Sandilands, and Dr. Peter Timmerman

COVER ARTWORK   Kokila Bhattacharya