Mechanophilia Book 1

Mechanophilia Book 1

A review of Mechanophilia Book 1 by Sarah Burgoyne and Vi Khi Nao

Published on July 4, 2024

Mechanophilia is the initial volume of an epic poem collaboratively produced by Montreal-based poet Sarah Burgoyne and American-Vietnamese writer Vi Khi Nao. In a lexical tour de force of monumental proportions, the two poets unleash a verbal maelstrom that rewards readers who are willing to surrender themselves to lyrical chaos.

Mechanophilia Book 1
Sarah Burgoyne and Vi Khi Nao

Anvil Press
$20.00
paper
120pp
9781772142198

The lines of Mechanophilia are numbered after the successive decimals of pi, with each number usually dictating the line’s length. This mathematical structure fragments the continuous grammar of the poem. Rife with criticisms and a sense of crisis, the supposed love song that begins the journey washes over the reader with challenging diction ranging from “architraves” and “conchology” all the way to “despaghettify.” Occasional serene moments like “You / make the horizon / the purpose for my wanting” offer valuable counterbalance. Despite the lingual overload, the crossfire of vocabulary assimilated from the arboreal, popculture, architecture, mathematics, various mythologies, and many more generates a sense of palpable thematic multiplicity and continuity.

Halfway through the book, Mechanophilia explodes into an absurdist queering of the Bible that grips the audience with a paradoxical but effective combination of hilarity and gravity. On the one hand, during an argument with their homophobic father, transgender Caina (formerly Cain) contemplates eating the moon-like silicone breasts of the Kardashians “like gummy / bears.” On the other, this energetic re-imagining of scripture engages serious themes pertinent to the poets’ biblical reading, such as homophobia and transphobia, alongside modern issues such as capitalist megalomania and genocidal history. 

Persistently bridging the gap between such disparaging affects without trivializing the profound or suffocating its countless gags is this volume’s strongest achievement. This first book comprises the initial 3,000 lines of an as of yet open-ended project, with three more books already completed. Especially once its dizzying anti-patriarchal satire picks up, Mechanophilia Book 1 leaves one hungry for more.mRb

Martin Breul is a Montreal writer and caffeine-addict, currently pursuing a doctorate in Canadian literature at McGill. He writes poetry, flash fiction, reviews, and more. In 2023, Cactus Press published Martin’s debut chapbook love poems suck. Twitter/X: @BreulMartin

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