Everybody's Automat

Mark Gurarie. The Operating System (SPD, dist.), $16 trade paper (98p) ISBN 978-0-9860505-4-1
In his debut collection, Gurarie experiments with absurdity, dissonance, and a patchwork of influences to consider the language of society in decline. Across four distinct sections, he explores the cultural influence of various musical forms (including pop, punk, and atonal composition), the synthesis of nature and machine, and linguistic alienation. The latter is represented by an invading alien dubbed "Resistant is Futile" whose muddled grasp of English is cobbled from advertisements and "foam operas," resulting in comically forlorn thoughts on, among other topics, breakfast ("these embryos are overcooked/ and missing the shells") and missing pets ("oh Lost Kitty of 718 228-5613./ On the fence post, this time"). Extinction and evolution—of humans and other animals, language, technology, and cultural fads—are recurring themes. Sense can be abandoned in favor of captivating imagery ("freedom is a twenty-two// year old bear princess/ with a wolf mask/ where a t-shirt ought to be") and clever turns of phrase: "to choke/ this impenetrable frog/ eyes. I stare back, I rib it// vicariously." Repetitive phrases act as a chorus, enhancing the poems' musicality and anchoring the reader to the text. With his jarring riffs, Gurarie eschews logic for a rewarding immersion in discord: "Everything/ is Empire in the Empire, but the Machine/ loves you all the same." (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/02/2016
Release date: 04/01/2016
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