From the Robot Apocalypse, backwards: The Cyborg Anthology by Lindsay B-e

The collection punctuates deeply original and varied styles of poems with biographical information about each cyborg and robot poet, as well as cultural context for the time. The biographical prose is just as important and interesting, giving the reader context clues such as when “Andre.riga (begins) their life as a mechanical shell, fitted with transplanted Human organs as a living memorial for a prominent family from Côte d’Ivoire.” So when Andre.riga writes “pumping / away shooting blood / through your body blood / pumping / through blood,” empathizing with the cyborgs is easy.

Cyborgs and robots, in this world, are the other. To unsympathetic humans, they are decidedly inhuman. This is expressed quite directly in “Repress Address.” The famously raucous cyborg poet Theseus writes, “The world has a hierarchy. / Cyborgs? / We’re near the bottom / rung, hide.” It is interesting that to be inhuman is, to humans, an insult.

B-e subverts the oft-central question of speculative works: what does it mean to be human? The collection deftly subverts this question—it does not matter what it means to be human, and in fact, it matters quite a bit more to ponder what it means to be sapient. Humans are oppressive in this world, and humans who do not ally themselves with the oppressed class of cyborgs and robots typically like to rally with what is known as “The Human Purist Movement.”

Adversity disproportionately affects oppressed classes, and in some ways, this is one of the main ideas of the The Cyborg Anthology. After all, “The Great Solar Flare” was only an apocalypse for Cyborgs and Robots. The first ever robot poem, “The Disgruntled Robot Says No,” written by Batt471 is our first demonstration of this disparity. Batt471 writes “met / al / can / feel / pai / n / to / o” and then promptly dies a few days after. This echoes what is happening to oppressed workers all throughout our own real world in the modern day. The ruling class is free to use a workplace death as an incident, whereas oppressed workers do not have the same luxury because they are the ones dying.

Echoing is what The Cyborg Anthology does superbly. There is a section of the anthology called “Political Poets” which at first glance makes it seem like only several poets are political. In fact, when one reads closely, one understands that every single poem in this collection is political. Its politics are many different facets of oppressor and oppressed. This is similar to present day, in that all art is political. As was written in the chapbook Our Cyborg History by the Sydney School of Robotics, “Tired of all those who come with words, words without function / I make my way as a skin-covered island.”


Eliot Gilbert is a writer and editor living in Toronto, Canada. His work has appeared in The Malahat Review, The Puritan, and Existere.


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