‘The Cloud that Contained the Lightning’ (University of Georgia Press, 2013)

Winner of the National Poetry Series selected by Nikky Finney.

 Poems about the enduring and yet-to-be reconciled legacy of nuclear weapons

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Using the character of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb,” as a jumping- off point, The Cloud That Contained the Lightning explores the kinds of ethical choices we face as individuals and as a society with respect to the innovations and inventions we pursue. How are our fears, obsessions, prejudices, and cultures manifested in the ways we apply new technologies, such as the splitting of the atom? What were the attitudes that resulted in such a destructive invention? What prompted it to be used on a nation suspected to already be defeated? By weaving together the voices of Oppenheimer, his wife and brother, hibakusha (Japanese for “explosion-affected people”), and the mythological figures of Cronos and his children, Lowen creates a dialogue out of a vacuum of communication and imagines the kind of exchanges that might have led to a different outcome than the tragedies at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And in an exploration of our tendency for selective amnesia, this collection asks a critical question: How quickly will the forgotten lessons of the past allow us to repeat the tragic chapters of our history?


“In The Cloud That Contained the Lightning the unstable walls of the human heart meet the intimate walls of atomic energy. There is decay. There is bloom. Cynthia Lowen skillfully and fiercely tunnels into the world and mind of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, observes, magically imagines, and then maps forward a critical American life. The historical dust of what intimately did and did not happen in 1945 settles alphabetically on us all. With sensual probing and stark probability Lowen and The Cloud That Contained the Lightning resurrect the questions that human beings will forever face and only clear lovely poetry can answer: What can we see from where we stand? Whose fingers clutch the ropes that could always drop the curtain? We need this graceful work.” —Nikky Finney, author of Head Off & Split

“Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, was a pivotal and tragic figure in twentieth-century American life. No biographer in six hundred pages has come closer to understanding him—and the bomb—than does Cynthia Lowen in these subtle, resonant poems.”
—Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb

“Tough minded, mordant, and oracular, many poems in this book speak through the persona of J. Robert Oppenheimer—but as if he were a revenant and had come back to haunt our contemporary world. His comments on our social and political and spiritual arrangements make up a kind of shadow autobiography fraught with dread, nuclear threat, and a sense of the absurd. Zbigniew Herbert’s Mr. Cogito has found his American counterpart.” —Tom Sleigh, author of Army Cats

‘BULLY: An Action Plan for Teachers, Parents and Communities to Combat the Bullying Crisis’ (Hachette Books, 2012)

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A companion book to the acclaimed documentary film that inspired a national conversation, ‘Bully’ is packed with information and resources for teachers, parents, and anyone who cares about the more than 13 million children who will be bullied in the United States this year. From commentary about life after ‘Bully’ by the filmmakers and the families in the film, to the story of how Katy Butler’s petition campaign helped defeat the MPAA’s “R” rating, ‘Bully’ takes the story of the film beyond the closing credits. Celebrity contributions combine with essays from experts, authors, government officials, and educators to offer powerful insights and concrete steps to take, making the book an essential part of an action plan to combat the bullying epidemic in America. Edited by Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen.

‘The Essential Guide to Bullying: Prevention and Intervention’ (Alpha, 2012)

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All too often, headlines expose the tragic consequences of child or teen bullying. As a parent, teacher, mental health professional or youth leader, you might feel helpless against bullying, but you do have the power to stop it. Written by a school social worker and the co-producer and writer of the documentary ‘Bully’, this valuable guide equips you with the knowledge you need to recognize different types of bullying, from teasing to more severe behaviors to digital abuse and cyberbullying. It describes the signs that indicate your child is on the receiving end of aggressive behavior … or being an aggressor him- or herself. It explains how to prevent bullying by creating caring home and school environments where kids can feel safe and where differences are accepted. And it gives you the tools to help your child or teen feel empowered to stand up to bullies, whether they’re the target or witness to someone else being treated unfairly. Finally, the authors take a look at antibullying legislation enacted around the country and discuss how you—and your community—can use the law to protect our youth. The Essential Guide to Bullying explores all aspects and angles of this national epidemic and empowers you with the information you need to better protect your child and your community against bullying. Co-authored by Cynthia Lowen and Cindy Miller.