Glow by Ann Hudson
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Ann Hudson’s Glow investigates the mystery of radium: the vision of Marie Curie who discovered it through labor and sheer will; its rise to fame as a health craze; the critically important work it did for the medical field; and its widespread use in luminescent paint which made watches glow in the dark. But Glow is also an investigation into what makes us tick, our curiosities, ambition, and our sense of purposeful work. These poems explore how one luminous substance—the hunt for it, the search for its secrets and powers—can be understood as a life force of its own, even as it has the power to whittle that life force to nothing. These poems show radium as destructive as it is illuminating.
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"In crisp, compelling and often ironic lines, Ann Hudson’s Glow paints Marie Curie’s drive, courage and genius, as well as the troubling side-effects of her scientific work with radium. These poems capture the disturbing interface between science and industry, exploiting the cultural mystique surrounding the newly discovered element. The Promethean bargain at the center of these poems speaks to the tangled mesh of ambition, hope, hubris, and sometimes delusion that attends any great human venture. Of a young woman poisoned by radium, Hudson writes matter-of-factly: “White ash seeped into the house, // even with the windows closed. / Peg’s little sister dusted every day.” The wonder of these elegant poems, which have abiding psychological and political relevance, is Hudson’s dazzling ability to keep them intimate and personal."
--Ralph Hamilton, author of Teaching a Man to Unstick His Tail
"What glows here? The past that never ends. The merciless endurance of histories both public and bone-deeply personal. Bodies, in all their brutal, beautiful diminishments. Time itself glows in these brush-tip-precise couplets. Ann Hudson’s poems burn patiently through lives and half-lives, singing for what dies, what survives. Unsparing, they meditate on duration, speed, efficiency, memory, time as money, the science of time. Time lost, and all that is lost to time. This affecting chapbook is aglow–haunted–by those painted watch and clock faces and all it meant to paint them. These poems are radiant. Luminous."
--Liz Ahl, author of Beating the Bounds
Radium Dial stood empty, fenced off,
abuzz. Boards on the windows, scrub weeds
pocking the dusty yard. The story quieted down.
After a while no one gazed through
the chainlink fence. When at last the factory
was leveled, locals picked over the rubble,
helping themselves to good bricks.
Schools were glad to reclaim the oak desks.
Even now radioactive fingerprints tarnish
everything: houses, a car dealership, a running track,
a lot that hosts a flea market on the weekends.
St. Columba Cemetery radiates.
We think what we can’t see can’t hurt us.
We think this deep in our bones.
Ann Hudson is the author of The Armillary Sphere, which was selected by Mary Kinzie as the winner of the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize and published by Ohio University Press. A senior editor for Rhino, she teaches at a Montessori school in Evanston, Illinois.