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The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  329 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews

New poetry by the acclaimed writer Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City and The Ticking Is the Bomb

electrocution, no—the boy stood in the hot-hot room stammering I did stammering I did stammering I did stammering I did stammering everything you say I did I did.
—from “Fire”

The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands is Nick Flynn’s first new poetry collec

Hardcover, 94 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by Graywolf Press
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(showing 1-30 of 638)
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Colin McKay Miller
Feb 17, 2011 Colin McKay Miller rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Nick Flynn (and only Nick Flynn)
Shelves: poetry
Nick Flynn is now one more author I used to enjoy.

I could say my malaise began with 2002’s Blind Huber, where the only bad poems were the ones about bees (and they were all about bees), but with enjoying his first poetry collection, Some Ether, so much, and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City still being the best memoir I ever read, I merely considered it a miss in the middle. Now that his 2010 memoir, The Ticking is the Bomb, and this latest poetry collection, The Captain Asks for a Show of Han
Heather June Gibbons
May 26, 2011 Heather June Gibbons rated it it was ok
There are maybe ten really strong poems in this book. The rest are fragments, riffs and echoes around the central topic of torture, specifically the U.S. torture of detainees in Abu Ghraib. I commend Flynn for taking on this timely, difficult project, and I was intrigued by Flynn's lyric poetic approach to it, but ultimately, this collection doesn't do it justice. In fact, the playful musicality, elliptical rhetoric and dense repetition of these poems seem at times to undercut or diffuse the bru ...more
Feb 14, 2011 Joe rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry, 2011
Nick Flynn’s awkward and mercifully brief new foray into poetry, The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands, worried me from the start. The second poem, “fire”, begins, “more the idea of the flame than the flame / as in: the flame / of the rose petal, the flame of the thorn / the sun is a flame” and proceeds in that manner for a dozen more pages. Not content only to copy Gertrude Stein’s nonsense, Flynn also creates an unflattering homage to Galway Kinnell’s masterful “The Dead Shall be Raised Incorru ...more
Mar 05, 2011 jeremy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
after spending time in turkey interviewing former abu ghraib detainees, it is clear the experiences there have had a profound and lasting effect not only on nick flynn himself but also upon his writing. as was the case in his most recent memoir, the ticking is the bomb, his new collection of poetry, the captain asks for a show of hands, is predominantly informed by the subject of torture. flynn's poems, both engrossing and affecting, are possessed by a determined candor. a rhythmic devotion to t ...more
Nov 07, 2013 Jason rated it it was ok
There were poems I liked.

Jesus Knew
Foretting Something
Pulse (Hidden Bird)

I thought that "Fire" & "Air" would be more powerful if they were heard as opposed to being silently read. I could picture a performance art piece with many voices reciting these lines at once.

If it wasn't for the fact that the actual redacted testimonies of Abu Ghraib detanees wasn't included in the notes section I would not understand what "Seven Testimonies" were about. The testimonies themselves held
Madden Swan
Feb 06, 2015 Madden Swan rated it really liked it
this starts slow and don't think first section is very strong. second and third sections make up for that. strong poems in the second section: "the baffled king composing hallelujah" and "earth" and "oh here". strong poems in the third section: "seven testimonials (redacted)" and last two sections of "saudade". weak points: references and excerpts from contemporary alt. rock (mod mouse & arcade fire & pavement), early poems. Strong points: well-executed anti-war poetry, including some of ...more
Sep 15, 2014 Helen rated it liked it
This collection was compelling, thoughtful, and original in its concept. I enjoyed Nick Flynn's other books, especially Blind Huber, and for the most part I enjoyed this book too.

But, again, it seems as if every poem lifts lines or phrases from other poets. And yes, they are acknowledged in the notes, and yes, for the most part, these lines are italicized within the poems. And I have no problem with the poems that use words and phrases from other things, such as the testimony of Abu Ghraib deta
Jul 18, 2012 Neal rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012, poetry
Takes on a whole new meaning if you read all reference to Captain or capt'n as referring to Captain Crunch.
Katherine Brooks
Jun 26, 2015 Katherine Brooks rated it really liked it
Shelves: spring-2015
This is a very controversial book of poems, both in the content and in the style. I think that the author really made me, as a reader, think and question the way that the media portrays the military and times of war. Flynn was also very provocative in the way that he wrote. He took original letters and censored them so that he was only using parts to make a picture of what was happening while at war. Overall, I really liked his work even though parts of it were disturbing since he was using real ...more
Apr 11, 2012 Zach rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands is an underwhelming and surprisingly harmless response to the American war in Iraq and the Abu Gharib prison scandal. Filled with references to pop songs and lines lifted from other poets, Nick Flynn’s second collection of poems suggests that he isn’t confident enough to stand on his own work and feels like he has to bolster his image by associating himself with other successful artists, almost like a teenager attempting to gain credibility by getting a trend ...more
Denise Lanier
Mar 17, 2011 Denise Lanier rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any lover of words
The poem Jesus Knew is my favorite. It breaks my heart (open) every time I read it. The thing is, the breaking is over something different with each reading. How does that happen? How does he manage that?

The words on the page remain the same, obediently anchored to their assigned seats. And yet, not. Because every time I visit this poem the words somehow morph and shift, lift off the stage of ivory paper, quick-change their costumes and voices, dance and contort like some kind of Cirque du Sole
Renee Alberts
Dec 28, 2014 Renee Alberts rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
In this poetry collection, Flynn continues his examination of torture, specifically Abu Ghraib prison, that he began in his memoir The Ticking is the Bomb. While he still explores violence in humanity, this work takes a more elliptical approach. Poems quote Walt Whitman and pop lyrics, often achieving a song-like rhythm themselves as they speak in the voice of a soldier ordered to violently interrogate a prisoner. Distortion and disorientation dominate the syntax as Flynn fractures lines with en ...more
Jul 27, 2011 Nicola rated it it was amazing
Many readers write that this collection doesn't stand on its own--the source material is more powerful, Flynn's memoir sheds more light on the topic, etc. But I disagree. Excuse the pun, but these are tortured poems--if you read them aloud, they HURT. They have problems with breath, interruption, repetition, and coherence that simulate the physical and mental pain of torture. Part of the power of Flynn's technique is the blur he creates between torturer and tortured--this became most apparent in ...more
Aug 28, 2011 Andrew rated it it was ok
Shelves: verse, 2011
Many of these poems were difficult to read. They confront the varieties of suffering inflicted by capricious people, most of them somehow just following orders, in a way that is more immediate and intimate than in any other poems I've encountered. Rarely is something so short and so spare this hard to swallow.

Probably my favorite bit is at the end of "Self Exam (My Body is a Cage)"

listen please, close
your eyes - can you hear it? We think our souls live

in boxes, we think someone sits behind ou
D. Arlene
Sep 26, 2014 D. Arlene rated it liked it
I thought it was an interesting selection of poems. It's a very heavy feel to it because of the topic that each poem embodies. I'm not much of a poet--I barely read or write any
However, as a writer I can express an appreciation for his use of perspective change in his poems.
Mar 05, 2014 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, 2014
Searing, and good because of it. (Also good because of its cleverness and allusions. But mostly because it's searing.)
Dec 30, 2012 Alan rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I have read two previous books by Nick Flynn ("Another Bullshit Night in Suck City" and "The Ticking is the Bomb"). Both were fantastic - difficult stories, more so because they were real. This is a book of poetry, some of which I had heard him read at Book Court in Brooklyn. Like his prose, Flynn pulls no punches - his images are jarring and in many of these poems there is the theme of war and torture from multiple perspectives and voices. As a newcomer to poetry (I think the last time I read a ...more
May 25, 2014 Craig rated it liked it
This is a very difficult collection for me to rate. Still thinking on it...
Jul 29, 2014 Amanda rated it liked it
There's some powerful poems in here, as most of them relate to the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. But the imagery wasn't as absorbing as his other collection, Some Ether.
Mar 10, 2011 Ellie rated it liked it
I like Nick Flynn-his memoirs and his poetry. These were not my favorite poems of him, they lacked some of the power of the work in Blind Huber: Poems ir Some Ether: Poems. Still, he's one of the better poets writing and I was happy to read him again.
Christina Rau
Aug 28, 2015 Christina Rau rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Nick Flynn makes me want to cry and cringe and scream and pass out from the exhaustion of feeling. In this collection, he heads straight into the morality of war. He steals from other poets and then attributes what he steals at the end; I admire a poet thief. The cadence is haunting. His ship images are ones that I wish I wrote. The only reason it has no fifth star is that it is just too haunting and should come with a warning label.
JJ Lynne
May 26, 2013 JJ Lynne rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
While it was almost painful to get through this collection, which was little more than a jumbled mish-mash of stark images and borrowed lines, I will say that they achieve a vibrance and vitality when read by the author. I went to his reading at the 2013 MA Poetry Festival and enjoyed hearing the poems aloud, but am disappointed to find that they fall flat on the page.
Jul 02, 2011 Rebecca rated it did not like it
The only reason I enjoyed this collection at all was because I read "The Ticking Is the Bomb" first and it gave me some perspective. This collection can't stand alone without any background information or the notes in the back of this book. I will not recommend this book unless you read it after "The Ticking is the Bomb." But even so, I was not impressed.
Thomas Maluck
Sep 25, 2011 Thomas Maluck rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
While the lengthier poems make what I feel are powerful statements of cruel complicity and cultural confusion, a fair number of poems in here are also short to the point of feeling like scraps. The book may be printed on 100% postconsumer paper, but couldn't Flynn have made better use of all that empty space on the pages?
Siel Ju
Jan 12, 2012 Siel Ju rated it liked it
Lots of poems about war, esp. Iraq war -- a few written in the voice of a soldier speaking to his captain. Torture, suicide, child abuse -- all interwoven with strains of pop music and poetry. Flynn takes a lot of lines from other poets / artists, weaves them into his own poems.
Sep 18, 2011 Kristin rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
With a focus on torture, I really appreciated Flynn's ability to make the book feel as personal as he did. I was especially fond of his redacted poem, a form that can come off as trite, but which worked well here.
Christine Fay
Dec 27, 2015 Christine Fay rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is a short book of poetry inspired by witnessing some of the trials brought about the torture incidents in Abu Ghraib. Poignant, powerful, touching poems. A very quick yet intense read.
May 10, 2013 Bobby rated it it was ok
Disclaimer: I'm not a poetry reader. I've liked Nick Flynn's memoirs and decided to pick this up. Nothing amazing here. Some good lines, but I couldn't follow or resonate with much of it.
Mar 30, 2015 Amanda rated it liked it
There's some powerful poems in here, as most of them relate to the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. But the imagery wasn't as absorbing as his other collection, Some Ether.
Caleb Tankersley
Feb 01, 2011 Caleb Tankersley rated it it was amazing
Read my review of this book at

And good God, go buy the book!
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Nick Flynn is an American poet, memoirist, and playwright.

His most recent book is The Ticking Is The Bomb, a memoir about awaiting his first child while simultaneously learning and fighting against American torture during the Iraq War.

Flynn's had written one play, Alice Invents a Little Game and Alice Always Wins. His most famous book is a memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. He has publis
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