USEREVIEW 085 (Capsule): Machine Dreams
Liam Burke X Natalie Hanna
Machine Dreams (Collusion Books, 2021)
ISBN 978-1-77722-448-6 | 48 pp | $16 CAD | BUY Here
Liam Burke and Natalie Hanna’s circuit-bent verse gives voice to the forces of commerce, war, industry and scientific research that we so easily relegate to background noise, footnotes to the history of progress. ‘Adventures in total artifice’ races one of the world’s first artificial hearts against the all-too-human ticker and its secrets, and ‘primal road (children’s war)’ dumps us in the meat grinder of WWI’s Western Front. ‘Nightlights’ sings an ode to the Radium Girls, whose “varga girl smiles” are doomed to teach the world a lesson about radiation exposure. ‘Hard reset’ deals in electro-convulsive therapy, and in ‘byford dolphin,’ broken lines memorialize the mechanical failure — “one fatal crescent shift” — that led to one of recent history’s most horrific industrial accidents. It’s not all blood, guts and oil, though: waxing tender, ‘touch down’ eulogizes the lost Mars lander Philae, trapped in the “enormity of [its] sunless solitude.” The mechanisms in Machine Dreams may not be watching over us with loving grace, but they’re still watching — and it’s a bracing pleasure to see the world from their point of view.
Both ‘Adventures in Total Artifice’ and ‘Byford Dolphin’ (pp. 20 and 32, respectively) invoke historical cases of fatal technological failures, with a sensitive eye for irony, and the ways — subtle and not-so-subtle — the machinic can mangle the human.