ADDRESSING THE ATOMIC SPECTER: GINSBERG’S “PLUTONIAN ODE” AND AMERICA’S NUCLEAR UNCONSCIOUS KRISTIN GEORGE BAGDANOV Ah civilizations stupidly industrious! Canker-Hex on multitudes learned or illiterate! Manufactured Spectre of human reason! —Allen Ginsberg, “Plutonian Ode” (1982) The story behind “Plutonian Ode” is nearly as epic as the poem itself. After learning that Plutonium-239’s half-life and the Platonic zodiac year were both 24,000 years long, Allen Ginsberg wrote without ceasing through the night of June 12, 1978, completing a draft of the ode just before dawn. After a few hours of sleep, he was awoken by fellow members of the Rocky Flats Truth Force, who informed him of imminent action on the train tracks leading to the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant near Boulder, Colorado. Ginsberg, along with his partner Peter Orlovsky and a few others, spent the rest of the day chanting and meditating on the tracks to block a shipment of ﬁ ssile materials to the factory. After the train rounded the bend, braking at the sight of the protestors, Ginsberg experienced his ﬁ rst arrest for direct action in the antinuclear movement. When asked to defend his non-guilty plea during his arraignment later that month, Ginsberg responded by read-
symploke – University of Nebraska Press
Published: Oct 3, 2019
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