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Staff Picks August 2021 — Translating the raving chatbot

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Virtual Oasis : An Anthology of Human-AI Responses (Trickhouse Press, 2021)

Despite only having launched in 2020, Trickhouse Press have already been pushing hard at the boundaries of what we might consider poetry to 'be', in an irresistibly playful, joyful and anarchic way. This recent anthology of human-AI responses is a wonderful example - it opens with poet Kirsty Dunlop's collaboration with a chatbot named Rose, before poets such as Sam Riviere, Maria Sledmere and SJ Fowler respond to a series of psychedelic, dreamlike and often disturbing AI-generated images. A totally unique, mind-bending glimpse into a future that's already upon us.

— Chosen by Will René

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Swirl Of Words / Swirl Of Worlds: Poems From 94 Languages Spoken Across Hackney edited by Stephen Watts (PEER, 2021)

It’s hard to believe a book this good is available without a price tag, but Swirl of Words has been distributed for free to all new and established members of Hackney Libraries. Published as part of an exhibition at the PEER Gallery which drew on Stephen Watts' epic Bibliography of Modern Poetry in English Translation, it’d be hard to find a more visionary and inclusive project this year, arriving at a time when we need it most. It's a cornucopia of known and overlooked voices, major and endangered languages, all gathered together under Watts' care and curation, fulfilling his belief that 'Translation is a vital art / pumping lifeblood through the heart.'

— Chosen by Chris McCabe

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Read ‘Em and Weep by Thick Richard (Flapjack Press, 2020)

If you’ve not had the pleasure, maybe watch one of his Youtube videos before reading this (recommended track: ‘The Sun Has Got Its Hood Up’), just so you hear the contents in your head at the right pace and in the right voice. Scuzzy, nihilistic raving that uses expletives almost as punctuation and pummels you into submission with its sheer relentlessness. In a good way. ‘She believed if you held a shellsuit to your ear / That you could hear Merseyside’. Now that’s poetry.

— Chosen by Russell Thompson