Soft Science explores queer, Asian American femininity, through the potential consciousness of AI. A series of Turing Test-inspired poems grounds its exploration of questions not just of identity, but of consciousness―how to be tender and feeling and still survive a violent world filled with artificial intelligence and automation.
...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.
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.
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.