Every once in a while a book comes along that seems so perfectly conceived that it seems, well, natural…or perhaps inevitable. Christian Bok’s Eunoia is one of those books, Lisa Robertson’s Debbie: An Epic, Dennis Lee’s Un (grossly overlooked in this country and now followed up by yes/no which hopefully will not meet the same fate.)…I could keep going…but you get the idea, various and full. A project fully realized. I had a sense from seeing excerpts of Christie’s i-Robot prior to its publication that this would be such a project. The voice seemed so assured, so completely, believably, bang on; the palette right, the language, the form, the tone, all on. The only thing that surprises me about the publication of this book is why more people aren’t talking about it.
Why indeed. Fascinating hesitations around tonal qualities in poetry–the only kind of humor mainstream poetry seems comfortable with is the Billy Collins variety (other than perhaps James Tate, who manages to be funny and complex at the same time…). Christie’s project is fun, there isn’t much on the line emotionally, it isn’t “lyric,” at least it isn’t a lone voice in the wilderness, but it is among the smartest and funniest satires of our technologically befuddled culture.
The robots here long for things, they get fed up, they are confused–they mourn. “We want fair treatment,” they shout. “Why,” the young robot wants to know, why? They want to be unionized, they are cautioned about who and where they stick their sockets into, they howl about “the newest processors” of their “generation destroyed by malfunctions, datastarved, hysterical naked…” No, these aren’t poems that are going to ward off the edge of catastrophe, nor of existential anxiety, nor loneliness, nor loss–but they will make you think about what you are engaging in right now, what you are so unconsciously accepting. Oh, and yes, they will make you look twice at your answering machine.
Where will Christie go next?