Sunday, May 31, 2015

Dawn of the Algorithm, by Yann Rousselot

Sci-fi poetry?  Seriously?  Yes.  It sounds crazy, but Yann Rousselot pulls it off.  Remember when Jodie Foster's character in the movie Contact said, "They should have sent a poet"?  Well, here he is.  Dawn of the Algorithm is an odd, entertaining, poetic collection of Rousellot's poetry, illustrated eclectically by others.

As with any poetry collection, I liked some more than others.  I think my favorites were the first-person narratives.  "T-Rex is Sad," he writes, about becoming "the laughing stock of the Internet: a meme with tiny arms, a mockery."  KITT, from Knight Rider, misses his driver, but can "still feel his imprint on my leather."  And in the titular poem, Algorithm, the artificial intelligence that has risen to dominance over humans, gets to know his subjects (in between stock trades, which is interesting in light of the recent rise of "robo-advisors" and "robo-brokers" in the financial services industry).

Rousselot was influenced by and pays homage to classic and contemporary sci-fi, monster movies, and the present and future human condition.  By bridging these two genres, sci-fi and poetry, that typically have so little in common, he forces both to look harder at the other.  Sci-fi fans can see poetry as a window of speculation and wonder; poetry fans can see sci-fi as a vehicle for meaningful and profound reflection.

I wonder how autobiographical this line is: "I do not own a smartphone, but sport a pager and write poetry, mostly about the fact that no one ever pages me."  If you're looking for a sci-fi poet, page Rousselot.  Even if you don't love his work, you'll be intrigued, amused, and maybe enlightened.

More from Rousselot:

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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