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by Jason Christie

Poetry about robots has “disaster” written all over it. But surprisingly, the poetry in i-ROBOT is peppered with enough playfulness that the reader doesn’t feel compelled to hunt for deep meaning in the sci-fi verse.

Instead, Jason Christie mines dark humour in lines like, “Last night I voted for the robot candidate, even though her main platform policy is the extermination of all human beings. I believe everyone deserves a chance in a democracy.” Poems are often written in this prose-like structure, assembled in paragraph chunks instead of stanzas. The long-form technique pushes much of the work closer to the realm of short story than poetry.

Implicit in most pieces is a nudge-nudge-wink-wink lesson about the follies of current society, with the robotic symbolism used effectively as a literary device. Politicians outraged about robots marrying each other is an obvious nod to the gay-marriage debate, and more than once Christie refers to slavery and the realities of second-class citizenry in reference to robot maids.

Social justice themes don’t last long in i-ROBOT, however; Christie prefers to have fun with his theme. He riffs off classic poetry in “Moloch Howls” with the opener, “I’ve seen the newest processors of my generation destroyed by malfunctions.” And you know this poet doesn’t take himself too seriously with declarations like “My robot fell in love with our neighbour’s garborator.”

But as whimsical as most of this is, it’s hard not to grow weary of the robot anecdotes and Short Circuit references. It’s like a joke that goes on way past its punchline. A leaner book would have cut some of the flab and redundancy and let the book shine brighter than the terrible Will Smith vehicle this collection may be mistaken for.