Sci-fi stanzas strangely nostalgic
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/01/2021 (857 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Lindsay B-E’s first collection, The Cyborg Anthology, proceeds from the science-fiction conceit that it is being published after 2202, when a solar flare ejected a mass that destroyed all electronic systems on planet Earth. This included nearly all robots and cyborgs (human-machine hybrids), who since 2126 had enjoyed sapient rights (what we would call human rights today).
B-E’s book takes the form of an anthology highlighting the most significant works of Cyborg poetry, celebrating and mourning a host of authors whose biographies are included alongside their poems. Of course, in reality B-E has authored all of these poems, showcasing an impressive range.
The concept allows B-E to explore myriad styles, and the poems develop with startling facility. Some are pitch-perfect pastiches, like those of the spoken word artist Theseus: “My breath is not sanctified / by your brothelhood of men. / What the hell do you want from me? / Between my thighs? Tending and mending? / Pretending to be less? / I’ll confess to the Virgin, the Bride, the Mother of all, / and say Thank You!”
Compare to this poem by another of B-E’s creations, Sarah Ruddiger: “Loaded nachos. I have a cookie. Donuts. The super fancy kind. / Late fall flowers—pours another martini—tacos. More Tacos. // Theseus exists at the same time as us. You are something made.”
Then compare these (prophetic? Buddhistic?) lines by St Sp1ke: “When the sun stops functioning, / the moon stops functioning, / the earth stops functioning, / we stop functioning. // When I stop functioning, / everything stops functioning.”
While the science-fiction premise allows B-E to experiment with style — while still keeping an overall unity to the book — a weird nostalgia looms and prevents poetic development of the concept. By the book’s end, we’re presented with poems by “one of the few new Cyborg poets of this generation … [who] sports a set of ornately-carved wooden mechanical arms and legs.”
This encapsulates how B-E falls back on a strange refusal of futurism, offering nothing new in terms of poetic exploration (refusing to truly imagine a future Cyborg poetics that departs from anything poets are already doing today).
Engaging with science fiction allows B-E to construct a well-crafted collection, but not fully engaging with science fiction prevents imagining an alternative to contemporary notions of poetic craft itself — and so the end result lacks radicality. That said, the entire effort possesses an impressive confidence, range, cohesion and ambition, making it a stellar debut.
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Other notable poetry
I Will Be Corrupted, by Joseph A. Dandurand (Guernica, 126 pages, $20)
Poems delving into the solitary experience of living with depression while passing as unafflicted, “surrounded by all the snakes / of this earth and some of them / can talk.”
Pineapple Express, by Evelyn Lau (Anvil, 106 pages, $18)
Poems probing the physical and psychological landscape of mid-life and mental disorders: “Someday soon, you think, the words / will leave you, but you’ll still be here.”
Hearts Amok: A Memoir in Verse, by Kevin Spenst (Anvil, 128 pages, $18)
Poems exploring love (its history in poetry and its experience in a life) and its “swordswung questions, / summersault quests, / tongue that probes teeth or truth.”
Jonathan Ball’s newest book is the short story collection The Lightning of Possible Storms (PossibleStorms.com).
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