Rock Canyon Poets show nuclear power’s cost in ‘Nuclear Impact Utah’ via Daily Herald

The new poetry anthology “Nuclear Impact: Broken Atoms in Our Hands” is pretty massive: nearly 500 pages long, with pieces from 163 poets from 16 nations.

“If you think about it, there are only nine nations in the world in control of nuclear power,” said Bonnie Shiffler-Olsen, a Utah resident and cofounder of Rock Canyon Poets, a growing local poetry group. “And so obviously, it doesn’t just impact those of us who have the buttons to push.”

Shiffler-Olsen and other members of Rock Canyon Poets have contributed to the new anthology, which explores the human cost of nuclear power around the world. From the world’s first nuclear test in 1945 (a New Mexico-based explosion known as Trinity) to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, “Nuclear Impact” covers the broad spectrum of world-changing nuclear events on a personal level. It’s not about dates and figures, but individuals and families.

The anthology also hits close to home in Utah: Many of America’s aboveground nuclear tests happened near the Nevada-Utah border. Utah residents felt the effects, many through radiation-induced disease and eventual death. On Monday, Rock Canyon Poets host “Nuclear Impact Utah – Poets on the Nuclear West” at Pioneer Book in downtown Provo. The event will include readings from the anthology, as well as showings from the recent documentary “Downwinders,” which examines how those nuclear tests affected citizens of the Intermountain West, and a Q&A with the “Downwinders” filmmakers.

The new anthology, Shiffler-Olsen said, is a major contribution to the discussion surrounding nuclear power, “and not only how we’re impacted by it, but how we live under its threat, and how we live with the memory of what has already been done. And so it’s calling to action anyone who is willing to turn those pages.”

Shiffler-Olsen and her Rock Canyon Poets cofounder, Trish Hopkinson, contributed poems to the lengthy anthology. Their pieces were originally created for a project commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings.

“And that’s 70 years later, and people are still trying to recover and understand what happened back then,” Hopkinson said. “It’s an ongoing issue that’s going to continue to effect future generations. And what we put up with now is going to impact how much they have to put up with in the future.”


“A lot of the people are angry,” Skousen explained. “I think some of them are a little heartbroken, because they’ve sort of lost faith in something that they viewed as being very good. And when you lose that trust, there’s a lot of sadness. And then there are others who are just sort of depressed about it — especially those that have lost loved ones. They’re not angry as much as they are just sad and unhappy. I find very few people who are nonchalant or don’t care.

“Until you see the face of it, and you see the person, and how personal it is, it’s easy to sort of divorce yourself from what happened,” he continued. “So the film really puts a face right in front of you of the victims, or the families of the victims. And that’s really hard to deny.”


Nuclear power, and all its disastrous potential, isn’t a bygone topic. All of those interviewed for this story mentioned its current relevance. Many foreign governments — ones that historically haven’t been allies with the U.S. — are showing a renewed interest in nuclear weaponry. Same goes for the United States’ current presidential administration. This comes after decades of coordinated, worldwide disarmament efforts.

Read more at Rock Canyon Poets show nuclear power’s cost in ‘Nuclear Impact Utah’ 

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