In Jennifer Hayashida’s A Machine Wrote This Song, the speakers are hooked on phenomenology in fitful attempts to understand competing scales of intimacy and violence, continuity and disruption. The collection invites us to experience the loss of translation (between languages, generations, and geographies) with a tender scrupulousness and attention to how the private plays out in public. Equal parts definition and destruction of language as material, Hayashida’s first collection of poems challenges us to examine the continuous intertwining of biopolitics and poetics.
A Machine Wrote This Song offers linguistic tactics to examine reality as an infinite series of distorted connections. By mining her distrust of narrative, Hayashida explores the lexical torsion surrounding the maternal / the machinic, war / art, memory / strategy, syntax / feeling. Throughout the collection, we are reminded to both revere and question our personal and collective relationship to the histories we embody through language.
Some forms of travel leave mostly intangible traces: impressions, like the soft dent in an infant's head—a passing receptivity to what divides the world. As with translation, both host and visitor are necessarily transformed. A Machine Wrote this Song exists in this space of necessity, an urgent reminder that when we cast our attention with intent, we fortify our margins against the conditions of control. What can take place in these margins fills these poems with relation: to family and the domestic; to history's trampling of polis and land; to the subjective architecture of inter-lingual, intergenerational, transcultural life; to looking down and up. Jennifer Hayashida has written a searing and haunting book, one I read without moving, almost without breathing. It followed me to the streets, the subway; it left a dent. Transformed, "I nodded off, then on."
Jennifer Hayashida’s brilliant debut collection traces transnational movements of capital, from vocabulary to vegetables, in a song scrambled by industry and technology, by cruelty and intimacy, family and geography. The book is steely, motherly, tender, violent, elegiac—combinations often unseen yet lived daily. With grammar acute enough to enact our emergencies, attention careful enough to catch “the last sound from the past,” Hayashida’s A Machine Wrote This Song shocks us awake. When I lift my gaze from it, everything’s somehow alien, millimeters off. I’ve been waiting for this book, and what a stunning arrival it is, what a necessary disillusionment for us all, here in the late empire.