...the collection is accessible for anyone wondering about identity, construction, destruction, and human connection in a digital world, in a world further disembodied by the Internet—and yet. The Internet is the modern gay bar. The Internet is how marginalized communities connect to one another. And Choi, as marvelously outlandish as it sounds, manages to both condemn and celebrate this most illustrious tool of society. She does so in language lyric and logical, befitting the behemoth task of taking on the world, and winning.
The supposed divide between person and machine parallels the supposed divide between binary genders. Concentrating on the figure of the cyborg, Choi scrambles these and other dualisms ingeniously ... inventive, appealing, urgent ... Choi’s virtuosic linguistic grooves and structural experiments rebut xenophobia and racism by undermining the pervasive binary of self and other ... Soft Science, appropriately, demonstrates wild linguistic variety as it careens from scientific terms to idioms of strong emotion, including some especially taboo curses. The range of forms is also dazzling ... I also loved this book as a commentary on twenty-first-century poetry’s relationship to a leaky sense of self.
As the collection goes on, we sometimes forget if the speaker is a cyborg or a human, and this confusion is intentional ... juxtaposition becomes characteristic of the collection which places heartbreaking and humanizing poetry about the intrinsically gendered, political experiences of the poems’ speaker next to cyborg poetry that feels (and sometimes is) computer generated ... These poems shimmer at meaning but don’t arrive at it. ... The woman speakers in this collection are constantly attempting to uphold the pressures and expectations placed on women but are simultaneously burning with a desire to be seen—not read for meaning but understood ... All of the subtle gender theory scaffolding the collection does wonders when we land on intimate, personal poems from a human speaker who longs for love and understanding, so much so that she finds freedom in promiscuity, and later experiences shame. This cycle of emotions is familiar and relatable for many young women ... Next to the cyborg poems which evoke ideas of culturally constructed and performative ideas of gender, these poems about the inherently gendered experiences of a femme body entering the cultural machine are deeply impactful.
...Choi teases human feeling out of the characters and patterns we reserve for machines and computers. List brackets suddenly take on an air of secrecy and volatility, as if whispering a series of possible outcomes while coyly withholding favor for one over the other ... Franny Choi’s second full collection, works to dissolve [the] line between poetry and program, human and machine...Choi explodes the themes of AI, identity and language...into a full-blown exploration of what it means, exactly, to be alive ... Poetry and code, human and machine, blood and silicon … about halfway through the collection, I lost the ability to determine whether the speaker was flesh or ‘borg. More importantly, Choi convinced me that it didn’t matter ... Choi doesn’t present a clean-cut solution to the complicated intersection of musings on language, race, machine and identity posited in Soft Science. Choi is a poetic realist. What she does, however, is remind us that thought and poetry are not limited to the languages that dominate the field. In fact, she empowers us to challenge such hegemony...
...an astonishing interplay of cerebral and embodied experience ... These poems are a warning, a transformation, a personal reckoning, and a collective call to critical thought ... Cyborg personae, Turing Test poems, and a willingness to experiment in both process and form allow Choi to bring complex themes of consciousness, power dynamics, and violence into absorbing focus.
...candid confessionalism ... The poem conjures heartrending empathy and memory of all the times we’ve tried to seize humanity from despair ... Even as Choi writes about all the conflicting emotions in virtual sexual encounters such as these, it’s refreshing to see that she does it without shame or tawdriness. She manages to be frank and eloquent at the same time about her purpose, about her love of attention and fear of disappearing into her own image. For any poet, especially a female poet, to possess the courage for this level of craft and candor, is refreshing ... a thrilling collection, only flawed slightly by its overreach.
The core of Soft Science is the imagined experience of machines in relation to the experiences of queer, Asian American women. Through references to Turing tests ... Choi sketches a bold, relatable argument. The idea of having your humanity and personhood questioned, even as someone tries to fuck you, can be hard to look at—but for many, it’s all too identifiable ... Choi’s poems say things that couldn’t be uttered as successfully in any other art form. They simultaneously push language and society forward, a directive many contemporary poems neglect. When I look to poems, I’m interested in their ideas as well as their wordplay, and Choi’s pieces have plenty of both.
....these beautiful, fractal-like poems are meditations on identity and autonomy and offer consciousness-expanding forays into topics like violence and gender, love and isolation. All demonstrate the ways that our sense of agency allows us to navigate a treacherous world, but still fall prey to it. It's complex territory, but Choi is a gifted, deft guide, steering us through the morass with an unparalleled lyricism and sensitivity.
...an exhilarating matrix of poetry, science, and technology ... These poems demolish known and weary binaries ... Porn sites, tweets, chat rooms, and machine translations abound as Choi questions identity and consciousness in a world full of artificial intelligence, achieving in queer lyric form the most ambitious dream of A Cyborg Manifesto Donna Haraway’s 1985 work that undergirds the collection: to speak what Haraway calls 'a powerful infidel heteroglossia.'