EILEEN TABIOS Engages
Orphan Machines by Carrie Hunter
(Black Radish Books, 2015)
Carrie Hunter’s Orphan Machines is deeply thought-through as well as deeply-felt work. Hunter has created wonderfully moving poems, a feat here partly because I understand her method to be one of recasting found language. Such a method befits the second word of her book title but the results are not dry or cold. For instance, read and feel the evocative opening to the section entitled “The Subject Matter Makes Itself A Background”:
Having expired before it was used up.
“Do you want to see her?”
Finally there is nothing
to wait for.
I should note that I read Orphan Machines while preparing for a visit to San Francisco State University to appear in their “Writers on Writing” series. Part of my talk was to share early influences on me as a writer. In that chat, I discussed being exposed to 15 poets with varied styles as I interviewed them for my first book, BLACK LIGHTNING (Asian American Writers Workshop, 1998). During that conversation, I said
if any poet had early influence on my own work, it ended up being those poets in that series of interviews whose writings included an interest in the language-specific nature of language. That language is not just a tool to be used for manifesting a poet’s ego, like what they want to share (through poetry), but that language has its own nature and characteristics which might be a primary rather than backstory concern for the poet.
I would cast Hunter to be among those poets with whose work I feel empathy because of the above approach. An attention to words and said words’ innate characteristics is what compels such effectively rhythmic and paradoxically meaningful lines like, from the opening to “Inversion Twilight,”
Since sawing the listen. To instigate nostalgia. The smell of bleach and chocolate. Like incense is necessary. Axiomatic collective.
At the risk of creating a review that’s just babble, I don’t want to tell you what the above excerpt signifies, per se, as that’s subjective to each reader. But I can certainly point to what should be more universally discernible: the rhythm. Read it out loud—I, for one, find it pleasing …
I often appreciate different things from a poetry book that I return to for more than one reading. From my first reading of Orphan Machines, I find myself particularly appreciating the two poems whose stanzas are presented as square boxes. Visually, the squared edges of the stanzas encourage the reference to machine and yet the contents of the boxes, again, are emotion-laden. Emotionally resonant. Here are two examples, though please ignore the limits of my IPhone camera (click on images to enlarge):
The advantage—and wonder—of Hunter’s approach in Orphan Machines is how language, of course, is used in many facets of life. In turn, this approach allows Hunter to address/incorporate any and all facets of life as words might lead her to them. It’s also an approach, though, that respects the reader. The poems in Orphan Machines trust in the reader to be opened up to their unique significances. For this reader, Hunter’s approach was apt: the beauty, the wit, the philosophical Ah Ha!s, etc. are thoughtfully discoverable. Here’s one more:
Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor (the exception would be books that focus on other poets as well). She is pleased, though, to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her work. I FORGOT LIGHT BURNS received a review by Zvi A. Sesling at Boston Area Small Press & Poetry Scene; by Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer Grady Harp over HERE; and by Allen Bramhall in Tributary. Her experimental biography AGAINST MISANTHROPY: A LIFE IN POETRY received a review by Tom Hibbard in The Halo-Halo Review, Allen Bramhall in Mandala Web and Chris Mansel in The Daily Art Source. SUN STIGMATA also received a review by Edric Mesmer at Yellow Field. Recent releases are the e-chap DUENDE IN THE ALLEYS as well as INVENT(ST)ORY which is her second “Selected Poems" project; while her first Selected THE THORN ROSARY was focused on the prose poem form, INVEN(ST)ORY focuses on the list or catalog poem form. A key poem in INVENT(ST)ORY was reviewed by John Bloomberg-Rissman in The Halo-Halo Review, and the book itself was reviewed by Chris Mansel in The Daily Art Source and Allen Bramhall in Mandala Web. More information at http://eileenrtabios.com