People live in stations like they never had mothers or fathers.
Fit moms with legs like parentheses worry restroom machines.
Diapers are expensive, so are strollers and formula.
There is no formula for having children.
Olive and khaki static makes “leaves” and “branches.”
Pixilated people usually carry deadly machines.
Home away from home is the drugstore and the newsstand.
Private in public means dermis on the train.
A machine wrote this song.
Copyright © 2018 by Jennifer Hayashida
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Jennifer Hayashida is a poet, translator, and artist. She was born in Oakland, CA, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and the suburbs of Stockholm, Sweden. She earned her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.F.A. from the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College. Her translations from the Swedish include work by Ida Börjel, Athena Farrokhzad, and Fredrik Nyberg, and she is the recipient of awards from organizations such as the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Jerome Foundation, and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. She serves on the board of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop.
Equal parts definition and destruction of language as
material, Jennifer Hayashida’s A Machine Wrote This Song challenges us to examine notions concerning meaningful communication. In Hayashida’s first collection of poems, the speakers are hooked on phenomenology in attempts to understand competing scales of intimacy and violence, continuity and interruption. The collection invites us to experience the loss of translation (between languages, generations, and geographies) with a tender scrupulousness.
A Machine Wrote This Song gives us the linguistic tools to examine our reality as an infinite series of connected concepts. Hayashida creates gentle tensionby highlighting the synchronicities of experience, for example; motherhood/war, machination/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 our languages.
“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.”
— Solmaz Sharif
“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.”’
— Anna Moschovakis