"How do we go down these / [car cluttered ways] like a / pair of footnotes to [Plato] / or a couple of easy riders / [pulling wheelies] on the knife / edge highways of doomed / Walhalla" writes Henry Crawford in "David Foster Wallace Road Trip," one of the many finely tuned poems in his new collection Binary Planet. That's an excellent question and this is an arresting collection of poems unlike any you've ever seen—poems where computer coding [and especially square brackets!] invades and wreaks havoc on conventional rhetoric and sense.
[w]ham-o Sam-o [Suitors Up!] [yellow]
[look out!] [look out!] rainbows of
[arrows] candies of crushes [beads]
and bangles [open the vessels] hit it now
[hit it] rack up the [hearts]
wipe out the doubts [do it] now [do it]
run the table [BANG!] you're in love
[BANG!] you're alone [how do you feel?]
[stranded?] [abandoned?] you're on the
next [level] you're a car
See what I mean? Crawford is a techy madman offering a new code of poetry to a new iteration of readers. Bravo, Henry, for coloring outside of the lines!
—Bill Yarrow, author of Accelerant and Against Prompts
In..."The Love Poem of an Average Man," most of the words have so faded into the backdrop, now they are a kind of elevator Muzak that only allows occasionally a note of clarity: "we...wield...the sharpest...knives." The poem is his masterpiece, aligning him with the Modernist impulse to reassemble the broken mythologies and to capture something of the eternal within the small, the insignificant, the ordinary.
In The Binary Planet, Henry Crawford explores a world on the cusp of machine dominance in which binary code is poised to overshadow verbal language as the global lingua franca. But the planet depicted in this book is also “binary” in that it is shared between human and machine – as well as teetering on the (similarly binary) cusp of hope and dread for “Walhalla[‘s] . . . crystal cities / . . . stacked like fragile boxes / on skyline of denial.” As fluent in poetry as he is able to “awaken the logic of desire / in [the] wordless language” of code, Crawford explores a wide range of ramifications of the contemporary entanglement between human and machine, such as hunger, racism, and war. He also offers dystopic speculations of a future in which automated medics dispense synthetic hydration while listening to Beethoven played on a “virtual wood Steinway” and ordinary people who are “afraid of the sun” will have “danced without partners” and “stood by their guns.” Nonetheless, these poems never lose sight of the ephemeral beauty of the everyday, the “highway lights spin[ning] a circus / wheel of [stars and signs]/ . . . along the plains of the gasoline / night,” or the “florescent rainbow / cast across the splash-water street . . . / on this flawed corner / of paradise” on which the reader, like the perceptive narrator of these rich and varied verses, is still “happy /. . . to be [stopped.]”
—Susan Lewis, author of Zoom, winner of the Washington Prize