cover image The Engineers

The Engineers

Katy Lederer. Saturnalia, $18 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-1-947817-60-9

The frenzied and meditative fourth outing from Lederer (The bright red horse—and the blue—) enters scientific circles of heaven and hell to consider the language of reproductive technology and genetic engineering. Readers may need to reference the endnotes to fully understand such titles as “fetus papyrus,” “autophagy,” “acephalic, ” and “chromosomal dislocation” (which causes miscarriage). The book’s eponymous engineers are biomedical, but Lederer’s view is cosmic as well as microscopic. In the sequence “Polar Bodies,” referring to cells that are produced along with eggs and that can be tested for genetic abnormalities, clinical language is set into rhyme and meter disguised by short, erratic line breaks: “First one, then two/ coronal loops,/ we bodied through,/ ambiguous./ The statues/ smashed,/ the crescents/ pushed,/ the laboratory/ nano-flares/ beneath the burning/ bush. And then/ we felt their/ soothing touch.” While the poems are at times a bit amorphous on the page, they gel when read aloud, at times channeling the cadence of nursery rhymes. One poem, “Chimeras,” even borrows its form from a popular children’s book: “Thyroid, thyroid, what do you see?/ I see a hydrops looking at me.” These stirring pieces offer a disquieting and original look at the reproductive frontier. (Oct.)