Daniel Tiffany: On "Bomb"

. . . Corso orchestrates a . . . scene of consubstantiation—the poem is seduced by radiation (like "Plutonian Ode"), yet in this case, lyric surrenders to the charm of the bomb. In the ludic device of the bomb—"Impish death Satyr Bomb"—the toy medium of lyric discovers a reflection of itself. Corso calls the bomb "Toy of universe" and, in a trope that conflates the atom and the atomic bomb, a "fairyflake" (65). He also proclaims the bomb's turbulence—its meteoric properties—by invoking the "lyric hat of Mister Thunder"; and he celebrates its antic fatality, calling it "Death's Jubilee" and "a piece of heaven":

The stars a swarm of bees in thy binging bag    

Stick angels on your jubilee feet. (66)

At the same time, drawing on the idea that atomic energy slumbers in the ordinary substance of nature, Corso repeatedly forces the bomb to "frolic zig and zag"—to represent nature in a scene possessed by the history of lyric:

O Spring Bomb

Come with thy gown of dynamite green

unmenace nature's inviolate eye

Before you the wimpled Past

behind you the hallooing Future O Bomb

Bound in the grassy clarion air. (66)

The Green World of the bomb implies, of course, the conjuring presence of the shepherd/poet. If we regard the pastoral scene as artificial, as a toy world, as an extravagant trifle (like Kepler's snowflake), then the artifice of the bomb coincides with an archaic poetic genre that transforms nature into theater. The "grassy clarion air" binds the bomb in antique weather and in the virtuosity of the lyric air.

Ultimately, to no great surprise, the bomb reveals itself to be a monstrous musical swain:

Battle forth your spangled hyena finger stumps

    along the brink of Paradise

    O Bomb O final Pied Piper

both sun and firefly behind your shock waltz. (67)

Incantation, moreover, is equated with apocalypse:

You are due and behold you are due

    and the heavens are with you

hosannah incalescent glorious liaison

BOMB O havoc antiphony molten cleft BOOM

    Bomb mark infinity a sudden furnace.

Corso refers to the bomb's "appellational womb" and regards it as a "liaison" not only to the ancient origins of poetry ("a hymnody feeling of all Troys / yet knowing Homer with a step of grace"), but to the mythological character of ancient physics:

The temples of ancient times

    their grand ruin ceased

Electrons Protons Neutrons

    gathering Hesperian hair.

With the advent of the bomb, the ancient doctrine of particles (which are no more accessible to intuition than the gods themselves) and the ancient meters of Lucretius cease their long decline into ruin, mingling song with the "carcass elements," to revive the corpuscularian body in a "shock waltz" treading along "the brink of paradise." Further—and this is Corso's way of invoking the problem of ethics—the idea that matter is nothing more than the shadow of the bomb leaves "God abandoned mock-nude." The modern revision of lyrical substance puts God in his grave, and returns God to life as the radiant species of the body. 

from Toy Medium: Materialism and the Modern Lyric. Berkeley: U of California P, 2000. Copyright © 2000 by the Regents of the University of California.

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Criticism Overview
Title Daniel Tiffany: On "Bomb" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Daniel Tiffany Criticism Target Gregory Corso
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 05 Jul 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Toy Medium: Materialism and the Modern Lyric
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