"John Canaday has given us a unified series of poems that may well stand among the greatest works of poetry in this twenty-first century."
—X.J. Kennedy, Author of Nude Descending a Staircase
Critical Assembly is collection of poems in the voices of the men and women involved in the Manhattan Project—including scientists, spouses, laborers, locals, and military personnel—beginning in the years leading up to the Manhattan Project, continuing through the design and construction of the first atomic bombs, and concluding with the Trinity test.
Poems from Critical Assembly have appeared in journals such as The New Republic, Raritan, The Southern Review, New England Review, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Hudson Review, and Slate, as well as in a variety of anthologies, including those published by Poetry Daily and the Hiroshima Peace Institute.
"Human frailty and genius, human work of horror and salvation, human foibles and superhuman forces: In Critical Assembly John Canaday deploys lyric poetry, with terrific formal intelligence, to tell anew the enduring, fate-ridden story of the Manhattan Project."
—Robert Pinsky, three-term US Poet Laureate
"Most of the men and women who invented the first atomic bombs are gone now, but the moral and mortal complexity of their work continues to challenge us. These moving, resonant poems revivify them even as they open that complexity to our understanding."
—Richard Rhodes, author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award
"This is a story we may think we know. But reading Critical Assembly showed me how little I had understood from the inside the actual work and diversity of the community assembled at Los Alamos. Reading this book showed me how much I could empathize with the men and women given voices here. Canaday's poems took me to a world I will never forget."
—Carole Simmons Oles, author of A Selected History of Her Heart
"The Manhattan Project now has its Poet Laureate-Historian. Canaday's Critical Assembly is a tour de force of poetry and penetrating history that bores brilliantly into the Los Alamos experience to reveal the inner thoughts and lives of the Promethean community that altered humanity's fate during World War II."
—Martin Sherwin, author of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer and winner of the Pulitzer Prize
"John Canaday has created a remarkable book. Perverse, original, outstanding, and gut-wrenching."
—Errol Morris, director of The Fog of War and winner of the Academy Award
Louis Slotin Assembles the Plutonium
Published in The Cincinnati Review
Volume 2, Number 2 (Winter 2005)
and Poetry Daily, January 11, 2006