By Alexandria Peary
In Alexandria Peary’s Battle of Silicon Valley at Daybreak, America is broken, perhaps was never even whole. Perhaps America was only the illusion of whole, propped up with patriarchal mirrors and colonized concepts. The poems of the collection synthesize America’s dystopian disparate cultural and historical parts, all while offering the reader a meta-view of a culture at war, of a culture that is degenerating. New Hampshire Poet Laureate, Peary, via these poems, examines language and the way language is constructed, from phoneme to sentence to paragraph to poem to book, just as a country is constructed via language. Daybreak is entirely about representative forms, how language is an abstraction of sound and ideas, and how culture can become an abstraction for a period or movement, and how the internet and our experiences with it, in it and manipulating it, is simply an abstraction of an abstraction. Peary serves as philosopher and curator, exposing contrasts in contemporary life while gathering words, images, and concepts to fit inside the poems of Daybreak. Both meta and satirical, Daybreak looks at language dominated by the now, by the internet, and our interactions with technology, all while deconstructing and synthesizing language via poesy.
The poems serve as both containers of ideas about cultural structures, and representative of cultural structures, questioning, organizing, and reorganizing them. The collection opens with “Preface” where Peary sets up Daybreak’s framework, “In the preface, a book blurb floats with the author bio along an upside-down menu as a mid-sized paragraph swims into view and bumper cars a stanza.” From the get, Peary positions the reader as an examiner of culture, of its vehicles, be it Netflix, memes, or most often, language. It is in “Preface” where Peary asks “How does the immense bulk of writing stay upright?”, a question contemplated throughout the Daybreak. Notably, the collection ends with a lyric essay about the pandemic juxtaposing the past with the present. The collection itself behaves on a macro level the same way that the individual poems behave on a micro level, carefully arranging both syntax and content in relation to the reader’s role as observer, and participant. These are not poems where the reader is simply a voyeur, a position the reader likely feels comfortable with. Certainly, Peary is counting on the reader’s innate voyeur-ship, as it were, but also challenges, invites, and provokes.
Peary’s abstraction of norms and traditions allows Peary to focus on the wealth of culture, the wealth of language, and their failures in the light of political discourse. Peary’s abstractions allow her to satirize America, Americans, the bites and bits of language used to entertain or demonize. Furthermore, abstraction allows Peary to dissolve the walls and boundaries of genre, to allow poetry to rub elbows with other modes of writing. Consider “Analysis of A Poem on the Tablecloth'' a center-aligned poem that begins “ i.e. Cezanne apples, Botero oranges, Roy Lichtenstein grapes.” The poem both offers a description of the modern table cloth, but also a critique of mass-produced culture, mass-produced ideas. The poem barrels along, growing stranger as plums become “lecherous” and “commas” lay “blind copied and in the subject line”. Language and form break down, which includes in this case, a poem, an email, a user agreement, a romance novel, “a grant application, a wedding announcement, a monograph on immigration policy.” In terms of the larger collective question, How does language stay upright? Peary does not offer an answer. What might upright mean? True? Pure? What do those concepts mean in relation to colonialism and heteronormativity? Peary does not offer an answer. Instead, Peary offers more juxtaposition, drawing on the surrealist technique to explore and analyze an America forever changed by the internet, broken into thousands of micronations.
In the “I Heart My Cat Still Life”, Peary reminds the reader that the internet may look like pictures and videos, but the internet is nothing but code, what Kenneth Goldsmith described as “miles and miles/of language”, a “sinkhole” where Wallace Stevens’ poems and cat clickbait articles come together. In the poem, the speaker has to navigate a quickly changing electronic environment, one driven by language, which in Peary’s hands becomes satire as kittens are “held for ransom by an army of bots.” Again, language, in terms of code, becomes color, pictures, video, vehicles for accelerationism.