Review: Cyborgia by Susan Slaverio (Poetry + Geekdom = Bliss)

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We all deeply love our video games, graphic novels, and HBO subscriptions, but there are other magical and underexposed manifestations of sci-fi/ fantasy that will absolutely rock your world.

Number one on my list? Poetry.

There are beautiful, mind-blowing poems out there about space operas, cyborgs, murderous queens, and dishonored knights. And that just barely scratches the surface. There are poems so visceral that they might make you drop to your knees, feel your geekdom re-blossom in your heart, and belt out the lyrics to “Like a Virgin.”

Or maybe that’s just me.

One of these amazing books of poetry is Cyborgia by Susan Slaviero. Twisted, haunting, and rife with the type of beauty that is made when light glints off of steel, Cyborgia is a fantastic exploration of the female condition in a world of robot parts and disillusionment. At times literally, figuratively, or metaphorically, all of Slaveiro’s cyborgs bring to light a new story of the trails and truths of the feminine predicament, whether it be a discussion of “robosexuality” or overturning the idea of a damsel in distress.

Here’s the titles of my favorite poems in Cyborgia so you can have a little taste:

“Bluebeard’s Clockwork Bride”

“She Defines Herself in Post-Human Terms”

“Briar Rose, in Cryostasis”

“Little Red and the Robot Wolf”

You excited yet?

Slaveiro pulls on all sorts of classic themes that allow the reader to directly connect with her poetry/ delight with her original take on age-old fairy tales. But that is only one fourth of the book (where coincidentally all of my favorites are located, though the last quarter includes a truly fantastic riff on the “Our Lady of” trope). Slaverio splits up Cyborgia into four ingenious parts: “The Red Queen Hypothesis,” “Calluloid Marionettes,” “Boolean Fairy Tales,” and “Onthology of the Virtual Body”. In the first half of Cyborgia, Slaveiro dives head on into the realm of science fiction with poems that smack of spaceships and Stepford wives. These poems then bleed into the latter half of the book and infuse the fairy-tales with their dystopian tone.

The point is, if you’re a nerd who enjoys poetry, you have GOT to check out Cyborgia. A fair bit of warning though: some of the poems can take some working through so, for some of you less-than-enthusiastic prose fans, this is a tall order. There will definitely be times when the poems might seem intimidating in their precise-yet-sometimes-obscure language, but I urge you to look harder at the words and find the possible meanings underneath. Or, even better, simply let the images described fill your mind and take you over with their shimmering detail.

Now, because showing is better than telling:

An excerpt of “Parthenogenesis” from Cyborgia by Susan Slaveiro:

Your body pares away these

budding whiptale virgins

 

that evolve into red queens

If you feed them enough hellebore.

 

Seeded and blood-blistered

these offspring are variations

 

on your cutting-edge

mechanism, a maternal response

 

to an ever-changing bed.

They are more than greening

 

myth, reedy little bones

that solidify in sunlight.

 

They are carnivorous lineage.

When they say Off With Her

Head, they mean you.(1-15)                   

You can buy a copy of Cyborgia here.

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