I talk with Antony about his latest collection The Nagasaki Elder, his work as an Ambassador for CND Peace Education in the U.K, The Coventry Hiroshima Society and his hopes for this incredible book.
1. How did the idea for writing The Nagasaki Elder come about?
It was less of an idea and more of a promise to a Hibakusha that I would do all I could to raise awareness through poetry about the ghoulish consequences of nuclear weapons.
The seed was planted in 1984 when I watched Threads by a hugely overlooked writer called Barry Hines.
Threads was a BBC docu-drama that caused much controversy about its graphic portrayal of a one-megaton bomb being dropped over Sheffield. This was a working-class city like the one I was from and the people who became victims were my kin, toolmakers, mechanics. Cleaners, wives, mothers and fathers all decimated from the multiple faceted horrors of a nuclear weapon. The bomb depicted in Threads was around 70 times more powerful than the one that detonated over Hiroshima.
By today’s standard of nuclear weapons the one megaton bomb shown in Threads can be made 50-100 times more powerful. It is truly frightening and we cannot bury our heads in the sand. The idea for writing it is to show people what these weapons do and we will not get a 2nd chance to prevent them from ruining the human race and innocent blameless species that have been around long before us.
2. How long has this collection taken to write?
About 2 years. I work full time (not relying on poetry for an income) so all my free time was spent pretty much in researching, writing, re-writing etc. An old friend told me once that poetry is endless revision trailing through miles and miles of slush to find the purest, whitest snow.
One of the poems called The Fisherman’s Daughter in The Nagasaki Elder is about writing war poetry and the danger of doing so, if you go too far into the darkness you forget what light feels like. This happened to me and I think it is inevitable when writing about something so devastatingly sad.
3. Can you tell us about being an ambassador for CND Peace Education in the UK?
It is a role I take very seriously. The payment is not fiscal but active participation. CND Peace Education exist on minimum funding but maximum collaborative passions. All the people who work there make me very proud and make a pivotal difference to peace education and allowing tomorrows generation to make a difference today.
School students deserve to express themselves, there is no right or wrong answer in peace education, just the route we choose from being informed in a balanced way.
We plan to spend over 150 Billion pounds on weapons of mass destruction yet invest a pittance into peace education resources and peaceful weapons of mass instruction. It is wrong, places like CND Peace Education and the PEN Network deserve more sustainable funding so they can plan for legacies instead of day to day survival. It makes me very frustrated so I am pleased to help CND and will do so to the last.
© Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
More information on CND Peace Education can be found here.
4. How did the Coventry Hiroshima Society help support your peace work. Can you tell us about The Coventry Hiroshima Society?
They nurtured my social conscience with encouragement to pursue a path of peace and express it through poetry. It has helped further tighten the peace links between Coventry and Hiroshima.
The founder, Hideko Okamoto, has done more for peace than anyone else I know. The Coventry Hiroshima Society was a labour of love for Hideko after her time at Warwick University she was impressed with Coventry’s international links and advocation of peace and reconciliation. It moved her, particularly how Coventry which was badly bombed in WW2 remembers the anniversary of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Coventry Hiroshima Society is a beacon of reciprocal remembrance that burns bright through all this human darkness in the world at the moment.
Coventry Cathedral-Statue of Reconciliation © gcgi.info
5. What are your hopes for the collection?
That it touches people, inspires them to research more about nuclear weapons and do something rather than nothing. I want the collection to break down walls and build bridges because we need them more than ever.
Check out the INKSPILL Bookshop for more information and links to Antony’s Poetry Collections including The Nagasaki Elder.