Bradley J. Fest’s second volume of poetry, The Shape of Things, continues his project of poetic assemblage. Written in an age of ubiquitous algorithmic surveillance and increasingly catastrophic climate change, these poems both describe the shape of things in the overdeveloped world and endeavor to challenge the widespread feeling that the imagination has been foreclosed in the twenty-first century. An ambivalent hyperarchive, the collection draws influence from a number of seemingly incompatible lyric registers, including the language of contemporary theory. The Shape of Things culminates in an eponymous long poem that asks if a poiesis of “network being” is possible and suggests that there might be some other way to dance to the sounds of our present.
If Whitman and Adorno had a knife fight on the ruins of the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, The Shape of Things would be the perfect voice over. Which is to say, though it’s not a pretty scene, there’s pleasure and beauty to be found in the action and music of the syntax and in following the wild movements of this poet’s mind. Truly original, dazzlingly smart and game for anything, Fest writes of lives and desires torn apart by the neoliberal security state. Jolting between paranoiac rage and orgasmic bliss, between all- out negation and Wordsworthian swoon, these poems describe the awful implications of a contemporary moment in which “we have made ourselves a gallows of a house.”
–Sten Carlson, author of Fur & After
To call The Shape of Things “post-apocalyptic” would be a mistake: its poignant present tense anxiety unfolds in the apocalypse now. Ataris and hunter-gatherers lean together over the edge of time, commingling in harrowing yet pleasurable ways. But this is no book of “detached mirth.” Hear in Fest’s singing the quiet pathos of humans and machines out of time. While Fest’s human creatures have lulled themselves into submission—”There may be something (virtually) / on fire. More likely our expectations are being met . . .”—his work nudges middle class late capitalist culture awake into the disturbing awareness that “a prolonged adolescence is the shape of things.”
–Robin Clark, author of Lines the Quarry