The Bomb Cloud, Tyler Mills
Fine Softcover with Dust Jacket; 330 pages; 5″ x 7.5″
Publication Date: March 2024
A shimmering memoir defined equally by its lyrical prose and profound historical implications, The Bomb Cloud untangles the intersecting strands of information running through a family mystery shaped by national secrets. From craggy cliffs in New Mexico to the haunting White Sands Missile Range, poet Tyler Mills meditates on the journeys that curiosity and research demand. Mills wonders about the nature of memory and writing itself, which surface as subjects – and asks what it means to discover, create, and re-create narratives in a search for illusive clarity. How can one navigate through gaps in the fence around forbidden knowledge and confront what seems to be the truth? Extending from the poems in Mills’ Hawk Parable collection, this memoir wrestles with her grandfather’s likely involvement in a top-secret bomb wing that trained in the New Mexico desert, taking the reader to the very edge of the unknowable. The Bomb Cloud offers a story through essays about ecological crisis, family intrigue, personal and collective trauma, borders and the American Southwest, and mothering and legacy. It also splits open what it means to grapple with a history, a past, a place, and a self through language. The Bomb Cloud includes 10 pieces of original, multi-media art by the author exploring the questions posed by the book.
Born in Chicago, Tyler Mills (she/her) is the author of City Scattered (Snowbound Chapbook Award, Tupelo Press 2022), Hawk Parable (Akron Poetry Prize, University of Akron Press 2019), Tongue Lyre (Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award, Southern Illinois University Press 2013), and co-author with Kendra DeColo of Low Budget Movie (Diode Editions Chapbook Prize, Diode Editions 2021). Her memoir, The Bomb Cloud, received a Literature Grant from the Café Royal Foundation NYC. A poet and essayist, her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Guardian, The New Republic, The Believer, and Poetry, and her essays in AGNI, Brevity, Copper Nickel, River Teeth, and The Rumpus. She lived and taught in New Mexico four years, most recently serving as the Burke Scholar for the Doel Reed Center for the Arts in Taos, NM, and now teaches for Sarah Lawrence College’s Writing Institute and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
“Building out—as if in staggered waves—from a ‘classified’ photo in a family album, The Bomb Cloud grapples with the vexing indeterminacy that afflicts events that become history. What was her grandfather’s role at White Sands, at Hiroshima? What took place in the realm of the unsaid? Doggedly forensic, self-scouring, Tyler Mills works the evidence and asks the hardest questions. There is a palpable tremor at the heart of her account.”
Sven Birkerts, author of Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age
“Tyler Mills is a gorgeous, deft writer, and to read The Bomb Cloud is to be seduced by a beauty which belies its content, like the children who played in the snow-like fallout of an atomic bomb test in 1940s New Mexico. Mills is also tenacious and truth-seeking, and The Bomb Cloud is an unflinching look at the horrors of atomic warfare on people, the environment, a nation’s sense of self, and the repercussions, big and small, of faulty collective and personal memory, and of living inside a white supremacist patriarchy. ‘I had stepped into the murky stillness of the system that had put men in charge,’ Mills writes, ‘and I mucked up the dirt.’ Reading The Bomb Cloud will leave you feeling grateful for the muck.
Lynn Melnick, author of I’ve Had to Think Up a Way to Survive: On Truma, Persistence, and Dolly Parton
“Mills writes that ‘the beauty of New Mexico is one of high contrast,’ and I feel that in this work as she tries to uncover unsettling truths with the lush language of a dexterous poet. In this powerful memoir that ‘brings disparate materials together [to]…invite readers to look more deeply at them,’ she has ‘jigsawed the past together’ through ‘study[ing] the shadows.’ A book of history, family, art, and legacy, The Bomb Cloud is as much about destruction and loss as it is about creation. Through lyric prose, photographs, and collage, Mills demonstrates for us the recursive nature of building a narrative map of the unknowable as she strives to reconcile what we know and what we’ve been told with what the records show.”
Chet’la Sebree, author of Field Study and Mistress
“Tyler Mills is a hauntingly powerful writer. Her new book, The Bomb Cloud, has levels of amazement that get richer the deeper you go. It’s gorgeous stuff that you won’t soon forget.”
Luis Urrea, author of The Devil’s Highway