Creative Writing

Tender Machines

by J. Mae Barizo

Faculty - Creative Writing at The New School

Tupelo Press, 2023

Set against the backdrop of a changing urban landscape, the poems in Tender Machines swing between the domestic and the surreal, charting motherhood, desire and an immigrant family’s haunted inheritance. Mapping the lives of women and the lives they inhabit, poems such as “Small Essays on Disappearance,”—which channel the aftermath of motherhood and 9-11—collide with aubades describing mornings in a ruined city: “buying food at the bodegas…nectarines and skin-tight plums.” The poems in Tender Machines live in the space between the public and the private, braiding an intimate narrative. This is an intersectional portrait of womanhood with all its losses, departures and wonders.

“J. Mae Barizo is a poet of uncommon grace. The poems in Tender Machines are unafraid of pain; they herald the mothers and take stock of the colonizers. These poems are a singing gift.”

Sarah Ruhl

“In Tender Machines, intimacy becomes a kind of astonishment. The poems dance between innocence and experience as Barizo takes on the archetypes of Maiden and Mother, their freedoms and constraints. Staged between 9-11 and our current pandemic-infused apocalypse, familiar landscapes of Manhattan turn mythical as our Poet drifts, following where desire leads. The questioning of youth traverses into the erotics of post-Motherhood, forty the boundary line the poet crosses and recrosses, back and forth across a lyrical divide. Like our tender Penelope with her many suitors waiting for Odysseus to come home, Barizo contemplates old loves, pulling out all her stitches as she goes.”

Timothy Liu

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