This expansive, ambitious collection by Joe Pan further exemplifies his talent for blending genres and pushing formally experimental narratives and lyrics into a wild array of thought-provoking poetry. From the familial to the fantastical to the socially political, Pan’s maximalist style doesn’t miss much, earning this collection its place among the most anticipated books of 2019. Highlighted by “Ode to the MQ-9 Reaper,” a long poem about drone warfare already taught in classrooms around the country—Operating Systems approaches our complicated and shifting histories with empathy and an eye for the absurd.
“Frenetic, rhythmic, sonically rich—Operating Systems is an “effort in self- documentation/self-reconstruction,” but more broadly, these poignant poems characterize the self in relation to its many communities, both imagined and real. Steeped in mythology, music, film, poetry, medicine, homelessness, social media, family, drones—chronicling the inner workings of the systems that rule our lives—Joe Pan’s poetry approaches these concerns with a mixture of compassion, glee, terror, and fascination. These poems thump their way through time and genre while slantingly interrogating the innovative ways empire undoes itself.”
“With fearsome virtuosity and ambition, Operating Systems weaves the madness of our socio-political and cultural moment with family history, autobiography, myth, economic exigency, and the scrim of digital technology that overlays all of our contemporary lives. In stutters of ingenious lexical play, Pan’s breathless poems beautifully enact the difficulty of utterance and of connection, and the anxiety and fragility of living in uncertain and morally bankrupt times. This is a heartbreaking work of formal risks you will return to again and again; I am so grateful for these deftly crafted rooms, for the wildness of their vision and the depth of their insistence.”
“In a time when too many poems subsist on faded reflection and finger-pointing dressed up as ideas, Joe Pan is bringing expansive diction, finely characterized addressees, and raucous, digressive story-telling. His poetry is grounded in a combination of deeply prosodic vocal sensibility and protean wit, opening up the range necessary to channel the absurd and incendiary volume of detail endemic to our rather insane common world. That the poems elude cynicism without eliminating either hard truths or the capacity for satirical tonalities speaks to their ability to consistently re-imagine the curious plurality of that “you” one is constantly looking for, and after.”