The Engineers, by Katy Lederer
In her long-anticipated fourth collection, The Engineers, Katy Lederer draws on the newfangled languages of reproductive technology, genetic engineering, and global warming to ask the age-old questions: What is “the self”? What is “the other”? How to reproduce “one’s self”? In poems that are both lyrical and playfully autobiographical, Lederer imagines form as a kind of genetics, synthesizing lines out of a rigorous constraint. Things can go wrong. The body—or poem—malfunctions, evacuating crucial parts of itself (miscarriage), or growing too aggressively or quickly (cancer). The body—or poem—attacks or even eats itself (autoimmune dysfunction; autophagy). Written almost entirely in the choral “we,” the poems move among the perspectives of the bewildered parent, the unborn child, and the inscrutable God who looks down upon the human world. In a post-Roe landscape, the poems complicate and ultimately refashion our pre-conceived notions of the self—and of life. Radical, uncanny, and stunningly original, The Engineers takes us on a journey to a place we’ve never been, but that is hauntingly familiar.
Praise for The Engineers
“Katy Lederer is back with an uncanny, deeply intelligent series of poems. The Engineers reverse-engineers the natural and unnatural history of our species, our bodies, from parturition to extinction. These themes may sound familiar, but Lederer approaches them from a unique angle, one where the scientific meets the eerie. Here, phantom limbs and vanishing twins abound, yet everything is somehow recognizable. We’ve been here before and now we know the place. The Engineers is that rare thing: ambitious and fully achieved.” —Rae Armantrout
“At times suggesting parallels between gestation and thought experiment, Katy Lederer’s poems in The Engineers are eclectic bodies composed of slant rhymes and arresting images. There’s resolute attention to the word-to-word landscapes the poems make tangible (legible), be it the possible connection between etymological origins (the long-lost sibling) or the absent/present hauntological in vowels silent until now. Lederer’s texts invite us to be taken up in the spiral, the spin of attraction between technology and poetic invention. Read these poems and fall under the spell.” —Erica Hunt
“Technically rigorous and achingly heartfelt, Katy Lederer’s The Engineers imagines the body’s journeys at the cellular level, engineering an exciting new interior sublime. Yoking unlikely elements together—cosmology and sutures, ghosts and forceps, autophagy and love—this collection never digresses; rather it compounds its points, bridging the overwhelms that language is so often unable to address. 'The moon is like a heaven or a mother or an open wound,' writes Lederer in 'Inflammation,' one of the many major poems in this book. How we like and heed these poems; how they see and seed the discourse of our hyper-engineered, emerging moment.” —Prageeta Sharma
“Katy Lederer’s The Engineers is an utterly original collection of poems that meditates on our posthuman future. The collective voice in The Engineers is sibylline, incandescent, and unearthly, spanning the biological, machinic, and virtual. The poems will get under your skin. I love this book.” —Cathy Park Hong