Books: Automaton Biographies
Author: Larissa Lai
Arsenal Pulp Press – April 2010
In her first solo poetry book, Larissa Lai (author of the novels When Fox is a Thousand and Salt Fish Giro puts an ear to the white noise of advertising, pop music, CNN, biotechnology, the Norton Anthology of English Literature, cereal packaging, and MuchMusic as she explores the problem of what it means to exist on the boundaries of the human.
The books consists of four long poems: “Rachel,” a meditation in the voice of the cyborg figure Rachel from Ridley Scott’s film Blade Runner and its source material, Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, “nascent fashion,” which addresses contemporary war and its excesses; “Ham,” which circulates around the chimpanzee named Ham sent up into space as part of the Mercury Redstone missions by NASA in the 1960s and later donated to the Coulston Foundation for biomedical research; and “auto matter,” a kind of unfolding autobiography told in poems.
Ambitious and eloquent, these poems taken as a whole are a personal and cultural history that jostles us out of our humanness and into our relations to animal, machine, language, and one another.
Larissa Lai grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland and currently lives in Vancouver, where she is an Assistant Professor in Canadian Literature at UBC. She holds a PhD in English from the University of Calgary and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, UK.