Read The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands by Nick Flynn Online


New poetry by the acclaimed writer Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City and The Ticking Is the Bomb electrocution, no—the boy stood in the hot-hot room stammering I did stammering I did stammering I did stammering I did stammering everything you say I did I did.                                                               —from “Fire” The Captain AskNew poetry by the acclaimed writer Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City and The Ticking Is the Bombelectrocution, no—the boy stood in the hot-hot room stammering I did stammering I did stammering I did stammering I did stammering everything you say I did I did.                                                               —from “Fire” The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands is Nick Flynn’s first new poetry collection in nearly a decade. What begins as a meditation on love and the body soon breaks down into a collage of voices culled from media reports, childhood memories, testimonies from Abu Ghraib detainees, passages from documentary films, overheard conversations, and scraps of poems and song, only to reassemble with a gathering sonic force. It’s as if all the noise that fills our days were a storm, yet at the center is a quiet place, but to get there you must first pass through the storm, with eyes wide open, singing. Each poem becomes a hallucinatory, shifting experience, through jump cut, lyric persuasion, and deadpan utterance. This is an emotional, resilient response to some of the essential issues of our day by one of America’s riskiest and most innovative writers. ...

Title : The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781555975746
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 94 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands Reviews

  • Colin McKay Miller
    2019-04-17 05:08

    Nick Flynn is now one more author I used to enjoy.I could say my malaise began with 2002’s Blind Huber, where the only bad poems were the ones about bees (and they were all about bees), but with enjoying his first poetry collection, Some Ether, so much, and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City still being the best memoir I ever read, I merely considered it a miss in the middle. Now that his 2010 memoir, The Ticking is the Bomb, and this latest poetry collection, The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands, have come and gone, I wish I’d stepped out on Flynn years ago. I expected some rehash with The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands. Flynn often repeats himself in both his poetry and memoirs—his early work focusing on his mother’s suicide and meeting his estranged father at a Boston homeless shelter, his later works on torture at Abu Ghraib—but it’s worse than rehash now. It’s repeating the same mistakes. Where the poetry of Some Ether was relatable despite being so personal, the work in The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands isn’t just missing parts, it’s the type of unrelatable where you assume the poet knows what he’s talking about, but you sure don’t. There’s a series of longer poems addressing a capt’n (addressing what I assume is Flynn’s view on the military), but all of them fall flat. What’s worse is that with the notes in the back, you can specifically see the way Flynn missed the mark. In “seven testimonies (redacted)” Flynn comments on seven testimonies of torture from Abu Ghraib. The poem is decent, but when you flick to the notes and read these powerful one-paragraph testimonies (sadly, the best thing in this collection), you see not just what Flynn missed, but what impact he nullified with his alterations. He spends the rest of the collection butchering other works or touting (soon to be dated) hipster lines (though I’d still cite “self-exam [my body is a cage]” as the pick of the collection). I could sit here and debate which collection is worse—Blind Huber or The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands—but either way, I’m done with Nick Flynn. One (very disgruntled) star.

  • Heather June Gibbons
    2019-04-18 04:47

    There are maybe ten really strong poems in this book. The rest are fragments, riffs and echoes around the central topic of torture, specifically the U.S. torture of detainees in Abu Ghraib. I commend Flynn for taking on this timely, difficult project, and I was intrigued by Flynn's lyric poetic approach to it, but ultimately, this collection doesn't do it justice. In fact, the playful musicality, elliptical rhetoric and dense repetition of these poems seem at times to undercut or diffuse the brutal reality. The most powerful language in the book is in the "Notes" section, where Flynn has included the actual transcribed testimonies of seven Abu Ghraib detainees. Makes me wonder about the purpose of political lyric poetry, at least as Flynn practices it here-- when the primary documents are so powerful, what is the role of the poet, exactly?

  • jeremy
    2019-03-28 12:14

    after spending time in turkey interviewing former abu ghraib detainees, it is clear the experiences there have had a profound and lasting effect not only on nick flynn himself but also upon his writing. as was the case in his most recent memoir, the ticking is the bomb, his new collection of poetry, the captain asks for a show of hands, is predominantly informed by the subject of torture. flynn's poems, both engrossing and affecting, are possessed by a determined candor. a rhythmic devotion to the consideration and confrontation of dark truths compels the reader ever deeper. the captain asks for a show of hands contains nearly two dozen poems organized into three parts. the collection, however, seems to work best as a whole, with each poem adding to the inertia of the others. that flynn musters the courage to continue on in his exploration of torture, as well as its implications beyond the individual, demonstrates a concern for morality absent in the works of many (most?) of his contemporaries. while writers and poets from other countries have long contemplated this abhorrent practice (as both the tortured and the torturer), few americans have sought to brave the subject, let alone denounce it. whether one cares for the cadence and style of flynn's poems or not, the fortitude it took to craft so unflinching a collection as this one should be readily apparent. if I understand the memo right, capt'n, we can usewater, but we cannot use earth- that is,we can simulate drowning, but notburial- is that right, sir,capt'n? I've readthe memos & I want to dowhat's right (excerpt from "earth")

  • Jason
    2019-04-22 05:01

    There were poems I liked.ImaginationJesus KnewWaterForetting SomethingPulse (Hidden Bird)I thought that "Fire" & "Air" would be more powerful if they were heard as opposed to being silently read. I could picture a performance art piece with many voices reciting these lines at once.If it wasn't for the fact that the actual redacted testimonies of Abu Ghraib detanees wasn't included in the notes section I would not understand what "Seven Testimonies" were about. The testimonies themselves held much more power for me than the poems.

  • Joe
    2019-04-17 08:50

    Nick Flynn’s awkward and mercifully brief new foray into poetry, The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands, worried me from the start. The second poem, “fire”, begins, “more the idea of the flame than the flame / as in: the flame / of the rose petal, the flame of the thorn / the sun is a flame” and proceeds in that manner for a dozen more pages. Not content only to copy Gertrude Stein’s nonsense, Flynn also creates an unflattering homage to Galway Kinnell’s masterful “The Dead Shall be Raised Incorruptible” from The Book of Nightmares, stretching out that poet’s shuddering “Lieutenant! / This corpse will not stop burning!” into pages of meaningless psychoanalysis of an Iraq War soldier ordered to torture captured terror suspects. one drunk night, even now Iwonder-sometimes still Iimagine-was I hit am I daze, thisdream this confession, heylittle girl is your daddy home, hey capt’n heysir am I making any sense?No. Although I suppose passages like these make too much sense as obvious attempts to illustrate the obvious horror of doing obviously horrible things. But on a universal scale, Flynn’s belief that his caffeinated rant gives us new perspective on these crimes makes no sense at all. Reading this book left me feeling guilty by default, as though I went to an open-mic poetry slam and watched a very bad rapper read a few verses about his tough childhood. How any of the five respected poets whose complimentary blurbs grace the book’s jacket fell for this nonsense, I do not know; I’m afraid I’ve permanently lost a little respect for Franz Wright for comparing The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands to Neruda, Whitman, and Yeats. When lyrics to Modest Mouse’s “Float On” started showing up at the end of multiple poems, Flynn’s writing process becomes glaringly evident: get very stoned, put on some indie rock, and just write the words you feel, man. Perhaps the book should come shrinkwrapped with a mix CD and a dime bag, then you would at least be getting something for your money. Although I could go through and find several dozen examples of nonsense to shake my head at, I want to share with you the most arrogant verses of the book, which also happen to be one of its most concrete images: the tower towers above usnow, we can see itfrom wherever it gives the impressionwe will never get lostFlynn has confidence: the strong tower one can never lose sight of. But that confidence is misplaced in a meaningless gesture. Only the person dreaming of this tower could actually be moved by it. Note that Flynn only gives one word that describes the tower: “towers,” the verb. Like so much of this book, the image is a closed loop, hoping to hide its pretension. Flynn is so set on congratulating himself for thinking of such a great idea that he believes it needs no praise beyond its existence. When a small child makes a totally indecipherable shape out of Play-doh, we praise him or her for their creativity, but only so the child is encouraged to continue. At his age, I’m wary about giving Flynn more of that type of ego-building. As I said, Flynn attempts to justify all this angst by linking it to the Iraq War and, more specifically, the detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. In “seven testimonies (redacted)”, he takes some very moving prisoner testimonials and transforms them to dull sense-poetry through a pointless dada exercise. Helpfully for the critic, the original passages are printed in the back of the book. “The broomstick was metal. I was hit in the face, back, legs at Abu Ghraib,” becomes, in Flynn’s translation, “broomstick was I was / you are we want—”. But why? Why torture us (gruesome pun intended) with the senseless beating of real horror into art school refuse? It comes across as an insult to those who suffered at our military’s hands, suggesting that we can’t see the real meaning of their words until some MFA student wins a prize with them. Flynn is rightfully angered by the crimes committed at Abu Ghraib, but he has nothing new to say about them. His poetry lacks the intellectual might required to make any persuasive arguments. While reading The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands, I was reminiscing about one of the most sophisticated works of art examining the Iraq War, the play “Stuff Happens,” a brilliant take on the subtle and viral fears that allow the creation of a place like Abu Ghraib. In a scene in the second act, George Bush’s advisors are debating what concessions they need to make to Tony Blair to entice England to join the war when Dick Cheney violently interrupts them, hissing, “We don’t need him!” We may be able to round up some polite applause for Nick Flynn’s puppy-dog political poetry, but we definitely don’t need it.

  • Neal
    2019-04-16 09:49

    Takes on a whole new meaning if you read all reference to Captain or capt'n as referring to Captain Crunch.

  • sami al-khalili
    2019-04-19 07:52

    Nick Flynn's creative illustration may leave you feeling a little reluctant to persist on. It's not until the end in which you find the "Some Notes", where you begin to connect the dots. So you reread; although I reread reluctantly. The sparse couplet-esque format and sea-massive spacious line break made me feel a little empty. I didn't think it was captivating, as I assume it wasn't meant to captivate because the writing wasn't captivating. Without the Notes section in the book, I would be lost, dumbfounded in loose association and sparse metaphors. It's not my style but it won't stop me from reading his other work. Even the strongest piece which is the seven testimonies, redacted versions of seven Abu Ghraib, could have been done better...Back to the library with this one.

  • Stephanie
    2019-04-24 05:56

    3.5 stars. i wish I understood this book more than I do, because I really like nick flynn. it just seems like there's a lot going on in the book that isn't grounded, so it's a bit hard to decipher.

  • Zach
    2019-04-19 05:05

    The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands is an underwhelming and surprisingly harmless response to the American war in Iraq and the Abu Gharib prison scandal. Filled with references to pop songs and lines lifted from other poets, Nick Flynn’s second collection of poems suggests that he isn’t confident enough to stand on his own work and feels like he has to bolster his image by associating himself with other successful artists, almost like a teenager attempting to gain credibility by getting a trendy tattoo or “liking” a certain band on facebook. It’s difficult for others to take you seriously if you define yourself by things made by other people.The critical part of this collection is a series of poems Flynn created by “redacting” several testimonies given by inmates at the infamous Abu Gharib prison (the full testimonies are included in the notes for The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands). It is interesting how removing a few words can completely destroy the original message of the testimony, but because of their very nature and the intent of the author, these redacted poems cannot stand on their own, but each must be read alongside the original testimony for the message to come across. This exercise would have been more effective as a work of nonfiction on the American cover up of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, or maybe even a broader topic such as censorship and denial during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and I assume Flynn would have enough material for a full work of nonfiction, as he had traveled to Turkey to meet the former Abu Gharib inmates whose testimonies are used in this collection). As they are, the poems don’t adequately explore the concept of censorship, and they don’t add anything to the testimonies of the inmates. Even so, these poems form the most powerful and immediate section of the entire book. I almost feel like all of the poems were somehow redacted and they would make more sense, or at least carry more weight, if I was allowed to read the original versions.I’m still somewhat at a loss for what Flynn intended for The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands, but whatever it was, it didn’t leave too much of an impact with me.

  • Denise Lanier
    2019-04-02 03:50

    The poem Jesus Knew is my favorite. It breaks my heart (open) every time I read it. The thing is, the breaking is over something different with each reading. How does that happen? How does he manage that? The words on the page remain the same, obediently anchored to their assigned seats. And yet, not. Because every time I visit this poem the words somehow morph and shift, lift off the stage of ivory paper, quick-change their costumes and voices, dance and contort like some kind of Cirque du Soleil magic and athleticism is at work. Perhaps, in this particular poem, anyway, it might have something to do with the dynamic element brought by those jump-cut spacings. But, in truth, much of Nick Flynn's writing - poetry and prose - is gifted with similar alchemy. Jesus Knew is just, for me, the brightest, most stunning example of Flynn's sleight-of-hand skill with words, the images his words create, and the multitude of meanings they come together to form, layering, rearranging, reframing. When I was a kid I was lucky enough to have summer passes to Astroworld, Houston's local version of Disney Land or Six Flags. Nick Flynn's writing reminds me of that favorite childhood amusement park in many ways. Imagine that each time you show up and get your ticket punched, have the back of your hand anointed with that black-light-reflective stamp, you discover a new ride has been added. What's more, you return to the roller coaster you love best - but instead of always finding the same exact ride, you're treated to an experience that varies, markedly, each time. A new, hair-raising dive or a curve careening in a new direction from previous journeys, so that when you lean right in ritual anticipation it suddenly Alice in Wonderland-twists you up and left, instead. The hands ask for a captain show, and Nick Flynn delivers performance after performance. Each one authentic; each one a jack in the box; every one worth the price of admission a thousand times over; every one deserving of a standing ovation.

  • Renee Alberts
    2019-04-13 10:03

    In this poetry collection, Flynn continues his examination of torture, specifically Abu Ghraib prison, that he began in his memoir The Ticking is the Bomb. While he still explores violence in humanity, this work takes a more elliptical approach. Poems quote Walt Whitman and pop lyrics, often achieving a song-like rhythm themselves as they speak in the voice of a soldier ordered to violently interrogate a prisoner. Distortion and disorientation dominate the syntax as Flynn fractures lines with enjambed breaks and punctuates with slashes, parentheses and spaces and uses obsessive repetition and serial questioning. He also uses the language of official documents to compelling effect in one poem that reveals only excerpts of non-redacted lines of detainee testimonies. The book’s central concern is the immediate relevance of state-sanctioned torture and acts of war to ordinary citizenry, but the framework used to examine culpability shifts constantly. From the body, to the classical elements, to the radio, to detainee interviews, to the satirized but urgent voice of a soldier addressing his silent “capt’n”, the scope of these contexts suggests that such violence and the responsibility for its existence is inescapable. In both form and subject matter, this troubling collection confronts questions of war, truth and patriotism in an era when those three themes arise and transform daily.

  • Madden
    2019-04-15 07:15

    this starts slow and don't think first section is very strong. second and third sections make up for that. strong poems in the second section: "the baffled king composing hallelujah" and "earth" and "oh here". strong poems in the third section: "seven testimonials (redacted)" and last two sections of "saudade". weak points: references and excerpts from contemporary alt. rock (mod mouse & arcade fire & pavement), early poems. Strong points: well-executed anti-war poetry, including some of the references in sec. 3 to words as fields on which bodies are strewn (pg. 73) and bodies (pg. 76) and the use of redaction in the front endpapers followed by the seven testimonials poem and then actual Abu Ghraib prisoner testimonials in the notes section and then a continuation of the physical redaction in the final endpapers...impactful. also this stanza from "earth"(pg. 40):if I understand the memo right, capt'n, we can usewater, but we cannot use earth - that is,we can simulate drowning, but notburial - is that right, sir,cpt'n? I've readthe memos & I want to dowhat's right

  • Nicola
    2019-03-28 11:04

    Many readers write that this collection doesn't stand on its own--the source material is more powerful, Flynn's memoir sheds more light on the topic, etc. But I disagree. Excuse the pun, but these are tortured poems--if you read them aloud, they HURT. They have problems with breath, interruption, repetition, and coherence that simulate the physical and mental pain of torture. Part of the power of Flynn's technique is the blur he creates between torturer and tortured--this became most apparent in his "seven testimonies (redacted)," where you read the original after and realize it takes effort to attribute the sides represented. This blur is deeply disturbing, and moves through witness to incrimination and culpability. I found the lyricism disturbing as well, especially in light of the highlighted fact that music was played during the torturing. This is a powerful and important book of poetry that actually engages with the contemporary world, with its culture, politics and atrocities.

  • Helen
    2019-04-04 12:14

    This collection was compelling, thoughtful, and original in its concept. I enjoyed Nick Flynn's other books, especially Blind Huber, and for the most part I enjoyed this book too. But, again, it seems as if every poem lifts lines or phrases from other poets. And yes, they are acknowledged in the notes, and yes, for the most part, these lines are italicized within the poems. And I have no problem with the poems that use words and phrases from other things, such as the testimony of Abu Ghraib detainees, but that poem is entitled seven testimonies (redacted),so really, you know what you're getting. But to lift lines purposely crafted by other poets in other poems, that someone took time and effort to convey meaning just seems wrong. It cheapens what you yourself are trying to do. And especially for a poet as good as Nick Flynn, it just smacks of laziness. Soap Box Off.

  • Andrew
    2019-04-07 07:10

    Many of these poems were difficult to read. They confront the varieties of suffering inflicted by capricious people, most of them somehow just following orders, in a way that is more immediate and intimate than in any other poems I've encountered. Rarely is something so short and so spare this hard to swallow. Probably my favorite bit is at the end of "Self Exam (My Body is a Cage)"listen please, close your eyes - can you hear it? We think our souls live in boxes, we think someone sits behind our eyes,lording from his little throne, steering the fork tothe mouth, the mouth to the tit, we think hungrychildren live in our bellies, clutching their emptybowls as the food rainsdown, we sometimes think we are thosehungry children, we think we can think anything & it won'tmatter, we think we can think cut out her tongue,then ask her to sing

  • Alan
    2019-04-21 10:04

    I have read two previous books by Nick Flynn ("Another Bullshit Night in Suck City" and "The Ticking is the Bomb"). Both were fantastic - difficult stories, more so because they were real. This is a book of poetry, some of which I had heard him read at Book Court in Brooklyn. Like his prose, Flynn pulls no punches - his images are jarring and in many of these poems there is the theme of war and torture from multiple perspectives and voices. As a newcomer to poetry (I think the last time I read a full book of poems was college), I found this a great way to understand an under-appreciated and under-read genre.

  • Katherine Brooks
    2019-04-16 11:16

    This is a very controversial book of poems, both in the content and in the style. I think that the author really made me, as a reader, think and question the way that the media portrays the military and times of war. Flynn was also very provocative in the way that he wrote. He took original letters and censored them so that he was only using parts to make a picture of what was happening while at war. Overall, I really liked his work even though parts of it were disturbing since he was using real events that took place.

  • Christina Rau
    2019-04-20 07:14

    Nick Flynn makes me want to cry and cringe and scream and pass out from the exhaustion of feeling. In this collection, he heads straight into the morality of war. He steals from other poets and then attributes what he steals at the end; I admire a poet thief. The cadence is haunting. His ship images are ones that I wish I wrote. The only reason it has no fifth star is that it is just too haunting and should come with a warning label.

  • Ellie
    2019-04-05 05:56

    I like Nick Flynn-his memoirs and his poetry. These were not my favorite poems of him, they lacked some of the power of the work in Blind Huber: Poems ir Some Ether: Poems. Still, he's one of the better poets writing and I was happy to read him again.

  • Rebecca
    2019-04-25 11:51

    The only reason I enjoyed this collection at all was because I read "The Ticking Is the Bomb" first and it gave me some perspective. This collection can't stand alone without any background information or the notes in the back of this book. I will not recommend this book unless you read it after "The Ticking is the Bomb." But even so, I was not impressed.

  • Thomas Maluck
    2019-04-24 11:50

    While the lengthier poems make what I feel are powerful statements of cruel complicity and cultural confusion, a fair number of poems in here are also short to the point of feeling like scraps. The book may be printed on 100% postconsumer paper, but couldn't Flynn have made better use of all that empty space on the pages?

  • Jessica Furtado
    2019-03-29 03:48

    While it was almost painful to get through this collection, which was little more than a jumbled mish-mash of stark images and borrowed lines, I will say that they achieve a vibrance and vitality when read by the author. I went to his reading at the 2013 MA Poetry Festival and enjoyed hearing the poems aloud, but am disappointed to find that they fall flat on the page.

  • D. Arlene
    2019-04-21 06:00

    I thought it was an interesting selection of poems. It's a very heavy feel to it because of the topic that each poem embodies. I'm not much of a poet--I barely read or write any However, as a writer I can express an appreciation for his use of perspective change in his poems.

  • Kristin
    2019-04-09 06:50

    With a focus on torture, I really appreciated Flynn's ability to make the book feel as personal as he did. I was especially fond of his redacted poem, a form that can come off as trite, but which worked well here.

  • Siel Ju
    2019-03-26 09:09

    Lots of poems about war, esp. Iraq war -- a few written in the voice of a soldier speaking to his captain. Torture, suicide, child abuse -- all interwoven with strains of pop music and poetry. Flynn takes a lot of lines from other poets / artists, weaves them into his own poems.

  • Jenn
    2019-03-25 12:03

    This will need multiple readings for me to be able to capture all that is going on in these poems. I cannot wait to dive in again!

  • Kim Triedman
    2019-04-25 06:50

    brilliant. One of the best books I've read this year.

  • Lisa
    2019-04-10 06:07

    Absolutely gorgeous.

  • Kathleen
    2019-04-16 07:52

    Some of the most moving political--and personal--poetry I have ever read...truly.

  • Trent
    2019-04-17 12:02

    No,sir, didn't care for it. I'll try another.