Beautiful Machine Woman Language
Beautiful Machine Woman Language extrapolates Catherine Chen's experiences as a data transcriptionist for the Amazon Echo in order to examine the emotional—often invisibilized—spaces occupied by the human workers who service AI and other emergent technologies. Beginning with a lyric romance between an unnamed data worker and the AI with whom she falls in love, the collection curates a polyphonic space for how we can imagine our languages of desire for collective dreaming, longing, and archiving.
'When I worked I didn’t exist. I always wanted to transform a painting, e.g. vandalize it. I don’t want a house.' These pre-term disclosures constitute and void Beautiful Machine Woman Language, an anti-developmental mode of writing. Chen shuffles the cyborg ‘dregs’ to create a book of ‘machinal questions,’ slogans ‘ablaze in neon lights,’ a text that’s ‘botched.’ Here, the monster eats February, jots down the reader’s address, lies down next to the gardenias. Come in, dear monster. Have some citron honey tea.”
'I became a poet so I could complain publicly of my condition.' In their striking debut collection, Chen interrogates the obsession of naming, of defining the spaces we inhabit both physically and in our minds, at every turn. In this world of the poet’s creation, line after line becomes an ars poetica, not only suggesting what is possible through language and poetry, but revealing truths about our very nature: capitalism’s toll on the psyche; what it means to have a body and inhabit a physical reality; the desire to be heard, to be understood. Here is a poet whose every word punctures.
Catherine Chen’s Beautiful Machine Woman Language polymorphs like polymer from poetic composition to femme body, landscape to computer terminal. Throughout, Chen refutes futurity for a present when ‘fatigue is a collective noun,’ engaging the cyborg as a figure of despair. Chen’s disconcerting reports stream like stunned wartime kyrons; their lyric, a black box’s final output. Beautiful Machine Woman Language is the crash site of individual and empire, the smoke still twisting before the poet’s eyes; fire deep in their throat.