4.18.16: Small Bombs & the Penny Poet of Portsmouth

Apr 18, 2016

In the age of global terrorism, some attacks get more attention than others. We got blanket coverage of coordinated bombs in Brussels, but little on explosions in Turkey just nine days before or the devastating suicide bomb in Iraq a week later. Today, the far-reaching effects of "small" bombs - those exploding in Middle Eastern and South Asian cities with alarming regularity that often go ignored.

Then, a writer reflects on her friendship with Robert Dunn, a character seemingly from another age, known as Portsmouth's Penny Poet.

Listen to the full show. 

Small Bombs

On March 22nd, two suicide bombers killed 32 men and women in two separate but coordinated attacks in Brussels.  This you know.  Maybe you didn't hear about the attack in Ankara, Turkey - another European capital - just nine days before or the suicide bomb in Iraq just a week later that claimed more lives than those lost in Brussels. 

It's not news that some attacks incite more media coverage, Facebook profile pictures, and international response than others. Karan Mahajan argues that in some parts of the world, small assaults have become almost common-place, and may be even more traumatic for survivors left forgotten as the rest of the world moves on.

Karan Mahajan is the author of a novel called The Association of Small Bombs, a fictional take inspired by a real bombing in Delhi in 1996, not far from where then Karan lived as a child. He joined us to talk about the far-reaching implications of living with terror that is not considered news-worthy.  

Itty-Bitty Bombs

During world war two, large scale attacks against the enemy were usually met with massive retaliation. You hit us, we hit back harder. Nate DiMeo from the podcast The Memory Palace looks back at a moment in history when the US military considered the option of a counterattack on a much smaller scale.  

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org

The Penny Poet of Portsmouth

Robert Dunn was Portsmouth's Poet Laureate from 1999 to 2001. He was both a fixture and an enigma, often seen walking the streets of the rough-edged town....long before Starbucks and the gift shops took up residence, or the New York Times praised its "absurd selection of restaurants [and] cafes".

The writer Katherine Towler moved to Portsmouth at the onset of that boom and was intrigued by Dunn, then living in a single room without an electrical outlet and selling his hand-bound poetry collections for a penny. Her new book The Penny Poet of Portsmouth recounts their unfolding friendship as her life, and the seaside town transformed.

Poetry Combine

Long-time NPR listeners may recognize the name and voice of Romanian born poet and editor Andre Codresco. He's been a commentator for the network since 1983. He's also founder and editor of the online journal Exquisite Corpse and former professor of English at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where he sometimes went to unconventional lengths to bring the art of poetry to life.

A few years ago he created a poetry combine comprised of three students he took to New Orleans French Quarter. Their assignment: to write poems about some characters there. The journey began with a Jackson Square hotdog vendor, the Lucky Dog Man. This story is from Andrei Codrescu and producer Larry Massett. 

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org