Jessy Randall. How to Tell If You Are Human. Pleiades Press Visual Poetry Series, October 2018. 80 pages. $20. ISBN 978-0807169841. Cover design by David Wojciechowski.
How to Tell If You Are Human is a collection of 80 poems made from diagrams in withdrawn library books. In it, straightforward instructions for playground games become ambiguous descriptions of complex emotions. Illustrations of household objects used for German language-learning become melancholic feminist ruminations. A map of a museum now helps visitors find a good place to make out. The signifiers for identifying different types of beetles are removed and replaced with statements from a bunch of pervy skanks.
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"Jessy Randall has create the ultimate user manual for human existence. Finally, it all makes sense! -- Charlie Jane Anders, author of All the Birds in the Sky
"If you're not sure you're human, Jessy Randall’s diagram poems might help. There is something true (truth = heartbreak + hilarity + humility) in how she charts our bizarre behaviors, diagrams our paranoid fantasies, and blueprints our vulnerable questions. In her poems, we're pixels and little, walking cosmoses all at once. This book kills me and whether I'm animated code or a bag of energy, I’m definitely coming back. -- Sommer Browning, author of Backup Singers
"A how-to book that is also a poetry book that is also a book of images that also interrogates the notion of poetic imagery itself. How To Tell If You Are Human is a playful and intriguing work. -- Amy Fusselman, author of Savage Park and Idiophone
Jessy Randall maps her imagination onto the world—or, at least, onto the world’s ephemera. Lost charts, diagrams, and instruction booklets of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: in Randall’s hands, these are the fecund materials that compose our age. She writes onto/into these artifacts of the past in order to illuminate our confounding present. How To Tell If You Are Human is a deadpan triumph of poetic repurposing and Randall one of visual poetry’s most restlessly inventive practitioners. -- Johnny Damm, author of The Science of Things Familiarhome