"The flame spectrum of radium contains two beautiful red bands,
one line in the blue-green, and two faint lines in the violet."
—Radio-active Substances, Marie Curie
In Two Faint Lines in the Violet, Lissa Kiernan explores poetry’s unique ability to document yet revision the nuclear age, how when singing somewhere between the personal and political—if we listen closely—we might hear the social.
Fueled by her investigation into Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Plant—the first large-scale nuclear unit and also the first shut down due to embrittlement concerns—the etiology of her father's brain tumor, and her experiences coming of age in New York City, she laments and fêtes the abundance of lessons learned, ultimately tuning in to "the electricity of life" (Amy King), where personal and industrial meltdowns converse and converge.
Confessionalism tempered by omission, experimentation in diction, and the restraint of set form are brushed into landscapes spanning the iconic to the deceptively bucolic—lush, yet toxic, watersheds to concrete jungles.
Throughout, each poem in the collection is anchored by duende, a concept championed by Federico García Lorca, meaning a force that terrorizes the writer, giving her agency and urgency to write because all must know I have not died (“Gacela of the Dark Death”).