'Wetware' in No, Robot, No!
'Wetware', a collaboration between myself and the amazingly talented Flo Reynolds, was published in Sidekick Books' No, Robot, No! anthology, part of their Headbooks series.
Read our cyborg space opera below:
by Flo Reynolds and Cat Woodward
gelatinous tuber, the potato battery casts light of many eyes upon our opera:
my organs: puffed organza sleeves clear gum that dries white of animal/alloy I elastic polymermaids in demi-toilette
the stage is set. assemble women! lyric won’t hold but bolts + scions of her the gesture. flicker, bleed, you battery run wild
but stop. don’t look for me. I’m hiding. endurance of every grafted thing prowls like a wolf when you’re downwards dog where the join is. hmm? O. I was busy dreaming a sad thing they had me sing at a wedding. I went:
she she sees she in the sea she did not come to make friends she she sees she seeing she in the sea + she spits when she speaks that’s a shame
+ darling, I’m not finished not dabbed the red washer where I heal + heal around the scaffold
enter Mad Madge, my new drag avatar: all’s aquivver in the wake of her caterpillar track + laughable chemise of nanosilk. By agitation of little Globules she trundles, buxom as the bombyx who, too big-boned to fly, instead cummed her ruffles. Scuttling binbot trails her palanquin, rooting for Raffaello wrappers. we all hold up our paws in admiration!
what’s that you say? it’s my heart routine + that’s her hand. > my friend is a powerful friend > my friend is the coral + the bacterium + the women joyne her clean + close to any other sprig, smelling sweet there she is at < my heart again
[flickers. flick channel]
enter Trung: four small hand bends bamboo twin gold drape the elephant + bleeds
darling, my doll-body was always true + we say upload!: my quietude to the hill upload!: all the dreams of the ex boyfriends upload!: a romantic minibreak in the Uncanny Valley
didn’t I tell you? this is my Femme Act: see my avatar < quarter-dog with heel spur slinks down from the lab-rat heaven its voice of no molecules < lather of pixels < teletongue
[of fancy flickering, dream flicking] enter tiny Harriet: + strange trees crash turned ashen in the night her tear would be fire < her tear, her eye, would be fire
a real feeling around this installation words over me in light resolve jaw where my skull where i animal
enter Sweet Metal Maria empty as echoes + lidless witness
under the sign of the devil (aka Odile, aka Hadaly) she stands, heels bleeding mercury neither nm. nor nf. but < cavity occultish voltage + mucus membranes
my mothers singing > my dog tongue pearled with foam my shape of no origin keeps all the long loneliness but for her eyeball in my pocket
+ this is what I gathered: it does not desire but revenge is part of it it does not wait but agony is part of it it does not thirst but mothers are part of it
relax. sit in your hole. have the body of a sugar crystal. shhh, shhh.
> her metal tread softened > pyjamas + milkthistle her gauzy gemmules light of the fridge door methylating, drinking from the carton fantasy prickles + cold kitchen floor smell of new join somewhere, the quick
[chick flick, flicker flick]
enter Wu: thighs astride undying dawn of peerless, ageless, puppy-watered dragon
[freeze frame] [close fridge]
my avatar’s up at the mirador. download: heart of dog. run download: olfactory system of dog. run being a new dog & lie down on damp leaves. loving this wareness for its softness. run smell of join
I see now that the future is a river the river is silver + will dry clear I take my flowers I take my poetry + my jointure to the river my dancing paws are already in the river my herbs my spells + throbbing gels all rush down the river I go when I want to I go when I want to I go goodnight to You all. my Loves, goodnight! goodnight, Sweet Ladies, goodnight!
in No, Robot, No! (Sidekick Books, 2018)
It's a joy to appear in No, Robot, No! The book is garishly good fun. And as someone who just spent four years studying the intersection of robots and poetry, it was immensely satisfying.
The works included in the anthology properly explore that nervous sense of affinity felt for made machines whose inscribed narrative is a story of becoming; they also explore that disgraceful and exuberant [belligerent] attraction to the physical and philosophical recombination of bodies that is the future, if not the whole thrust of evolutionary time. While at the same time, these works also express that oppressive and reasonable fear of absorption and transformation-destruction by human/inhuman technological systems, i.e. the erasure of boundaries between system and user, in other words the death of mercy. This is the double-edge of cyborgism with its terrible and exciting complexity, and I was so glad to see all of the ways in which No, Robot, No! engages with it.
The anthology is uncompromising in its thoughtfulness and its playfulness, and it gives no fucks about distinctions between high and low culture, between literature and other visual arts, or between fiction and not-fiction. It's a loud, demanding, silly and outrageously colourful ride through the subject of human/artistic/technological potential (that said, it never looses the grounding sense of only being a book, of only doing what it can do, which is also the very on-theme sense of one's impending obsolescence. The humans are already dead?) To call it a collection of literary or art works would make it sound more discrete and artefactual than it sets out to be. As is appropriate, the book is characteristically procedural and the sheer variety of procedures, most of which are visually striking and provocative, reflects the various romances we have with technical procedures, the procedural modes of being and doing, the procedures of knowing and of translating phenomena, so that the anthology resists the debasement of it's robotic concept as mere gimmick. The book is also interspersed with tempting games, tests and challenges that prod at the fragile human-robot distinction and stage a half-joking seduction to the robot-side. I mean to describe how the book is confronts its reader through the medium of assing about together. No, Robot, No! is both light and heavy going at the same time, at times shallow, at times deep, which is only appropriate for its subject matter. Our poem fits very well in this context, as it turned out to be a wildly proliferating cyborg game across history, culture and imagination, a giant serious-notserious drag act of networked becoming.
I think No, Robot, No! is an exceptionally well-curated book that properly expresses the ambivalence of our relationships with the robot figure as it has entered our lives and continues to unscrupulously change them. It has a hundred ways to drag its reader into its mess, the way robots always end up dragging us into moral, spiritual, philosophical and political turmoil.
A few of my favorites from the book: 'Baby Shark' by Rebecca Wigmore, 'And I Must Scream' by Abigail Parry, 'The New Science of Management' by Rishi Dastidar and Ria Dastidar and 'Neo-Futurist Manifesto' by Astra Papachristodoulou and 'Texas Mutation1.01-1.03 by Clive Birnie and 'Therapists Without Frontiers: Malfunctional Robot Hospital' by Becky Varley-Winter.