ISBN-10: 1571315187
ISBN-13: 9781571315182
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publish Date: 06/14/2022
Dimensions: 8.58" L, 5.67" W, 0.63" H

Human Resources: Poems


Price: $22.00


Winner of the Max Ritvo Poetry
Prize, Ryann Stevenson’s Human Resources is a sobering and
perceptive portrait of technology’s impact on connection and power.

Human Resources follows
a woman working in the male-dominated world of AI, designing women that don’t
exist. In discerning verse, she workshops the
facial characteristics of a floating head named “Nia,” who her boss calls “his
type”; she loses hours researching “June,” an oddly sexualized artificially
intelligent oven; and she spends a whole day “trying to break” a female
self-improvement bot. The
speaker of Stevenson’s poems grapples with uneasiness and isolation, even as
she endeavors to solve for these problems in her daily work. She attempts to
harness control by eating clean, doing yoga, and searching for age-defying skin
care, though she dreams “about the department / that women get reassigned to
after they file / harassment complaints.” With sharp, lyrical intelligence, she
imagines alternative realities where women exist not for the whims of men but
for their own–where they become literal skyscrapers, towering over a world that
never appreciated them.

Chilling and lucid, Human
challenges the minds programming our present and future to consider
what serves the collective good. Something perhaps more thoughtful and human,
Stevenson writes: “I want to say better.”

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Praise for Human Resources

"Ryann Stevenson's debut collection Human Resources captures the eerie, 'Black Mirror' feeling that we've already crossed some A.I. event horizon . . . Stevenson has a deadpan human to counteract the surreality: 'Last night was a first: I screamed out loud / when trying to scream in a dream.' . . . We get the dialogue backward, as in Martin Amis's novel 'Time's Arrow, ' in which a Nazi lives his life again from death to birth. Both a nightmare and a fantasy, this undoing. 'I want to go back and change my answer, ' Stevenson writes–too late for that! Or, to paraphrase Kafka: Plenty of hope, but not for us."–Elisa Gabbert, New York Times

"In Human Resources, the speaker is often isolated, even as she's building technology that's supposed to help connect people. Much of this isolation, the poet conveys, came from [Stevenson] being a woman in a male-dominated industry . . . By thinking about connecting with an unknown being on the other side of a screen or speaker, Stevenson addresses a kind of detachment that is a result of modern technology. And yet, by thinking of the woman's role in a male-dominated space, she joins a sisterhood of poets who bravely capture the feeling of female isolation."NPR's Morning Edition

"Here is the past without robot screens, and here is the future that we cannot but try to anticipate through them. It is memorable then, while anticipating, that the person who designs AI throughout Human Resources does not always look at her own screens but, more often, through other windows, with the 'neighbor's TV / flashing silently, / as if he were still awake.'"–Ploughshares

"Stevenson's darkly comic and unsettling poems reveal the sexism and isolation of Big Tech. But Human Resources explores how our humanity asserts itself - even as we attempt to mimic it in a more perfect replica."–NPR, "Books We Love"

"The lyric explorations in Stevenson's beautifully discriminating book–of self and soul, femininity and society, the peculiarities and intricacies of 'design' within nature and culture–are stunned, fine-minded testimonies. In a time of cold virtual ecosystems and lightweight psychological theories and remedies, Human Resources speaks for mystery and vulnerability."–Sandra Lim

"The controlled anxiety of the present is captured brilliantly by this wary, lucid book. We live in an era when our humanness is worn down–by virtual beings, bots, synced devices, battery life, data, radiation, sulfates, and lead–so we must practice mindfulness to keep from losing track of who we are. This brave, tough book suggests that flowering maples, yoga, orcas, and the hands of our mothers might help us preserve our innocence. Human Resources is a lyric transcript of what it is to be a citizen at a punishing time."–Henri Cole

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ISBN-10: 1571315187
ISBN-13: 9781571315182
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publish Date: 06/14/2022
Dimensions: 8.58" L, 5.67" W, 0.63" H
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