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by William Lessard

Pub Date: April 4th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-7343065-3-8
Publisher: KERNPUNKT Press

This debut chapbook of poetry and diagrams offers a caricature of contemporary capitalism.

Lessard’s unconventional work combines absurd poetic statements with technical diagrams resembling Google Patents applications to present an imagined “instrument for distributed empathy monetization.” Readers are given a diagram of the instrument, which is worn in a similar fashion to an oxygen mask. Then an introduction provides a heavily abstract description of the instrument’s inspiration and purpose: “The model is dependent on subject. Subject ingested as data, we begin monetizing in the customer’s voice.” This is followed by a detailed yet poetically abstract summary of the instrument’s various parts: “Fabricast-grade contact (2 cm), electroformed with cumulus shape; nimbus tolerance.” A questionnaire is included that poses such queries as “What can we do when ghosts borrow our skin?” Other pages feature instructions on how to test the instrument: “TEST: Lay across the unspoken; invite lace vocabularies to travel your form.” A closing feedback form asks readers to rate the mechanism on a sliding scale, which begins with Snow and ends with Rain. Lessard’s book may appear overwhelming or perplexing to some readers at first, but a closer examination reveals that the poet is mimicking the planning strategies and language of corporate institutions to emphasize the absurdity of their dialectical approach. The statements made are generally nonsensical: “According to recent tests, sentiment can be extracted at rates comparable to the hydraulic fracturing of angels. Meat, peeled back.” But they communicate a chilling sterility indicative of a capitalist age when human individuality is obsolete and corporate emphasis is placed on the faceless consumer understood only through algorithmic data surveillance. In this respect, the unnerving work has nuances of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four but with its lens trained on the 21st century. Lessard’s writing is not without humor. A deliciously surreal questionnaire will raise a chuckle: “The oversized stone that follows us up the hill. What is its flavor? Vanilla, please explain: / Not-Vanilla, please explain.” Given its unashamed strangeness, this book is not for everyone. Those who carefully peruse the volume will find it to be a courageously unique, exploratory work that shines an eerie new light on corporate practices.  

Clever, boldly innovative social commentary.