Ryann Stevenson's Human Resources is a cool exploration of technology, both as a force and an industry. The "protagonist" of these often story-like poems works in AI, and the juxtaposition between her humanity and the humanity she has been tasked with working on creates a fascinating (if uncomfortable) space for Stevenson to explore. This book often made me think of Franny Choi's Soft Science, which is a favorite poetry collection of mine.
Winner of the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize, Ryann Stevenson's Human Resources isa 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 Resources 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."
About the Author
Ryann Stevenson is the author of Human Resources. Her poems have appeared in the Adroit Journal, American Letters & Commentary, Bennington Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Cortland Review, Denver Quarterly, and Linebreak, among others. She lives in Oakland, California.