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There’s a line in the fifth poem of Sophia Le Fraga’s new chapbook I DON’T WANT ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE INTERNET (Keep This Bag Away From Children) that can be interpreted not just as a command to her reader, but as a mission statement for the project: “save yourself on a computer/ and zoom in on a stranger.”
Incorporating phrases lifted from other people’s emails, tweets, text messages, and Facebook posts, I DON’T WANT ANYTHING is composed almost entirely of appropriated text gathered in the span of 24 hours. On June 20, the day we published Le Fraga’s poem “one-way glass” in the Lambda Literary Review, she announced her plan to write poems for anyone who tweeted, emailed, commented, or otherwise reached out to her through the following day.
The result is an exuberantly self-aware collection of short text pieces archiving various modes of online communication. (Keep your eyes peeled for a poem mentioning a “HOT monk”–that’s the one she wrote adapting phrases from my Twitter account.) The voices in I DON’T WANT ANYTHING are in turn flirtatious, solicitous, exasperated, despairing, and overjoyed, capturing the often comically exaggerated tones of language on the internet. Lines like “I’M not like scared/ of you but 3% of my HEAD is in/ ‘Actual Pain'” filter themes dating back to Sappho through a digital, postmodern experience of the world–one of constant, real-time narration.
Though the poems are for the most part quite spare (with some comprising only three lines), there’s a wide range of form, and the use of hash tags, emoticons, and emphatic ALL CAPS lend them an almost Whitman-esque excess. “TIME IS Welcome, but DEPRES- / SING” she delivers at one point, with a sense of line as finely developed as her sense of humor. Not surprisingly for a text collected and re-purposed in just a few weeks, time shows up a lot in these poems; later, “up The Brooklyn waste, [her] thoughts/ are:/ time is a waste of #Poetry.”
As its title implies, I DON’T WANT ANYTHING also offers its share of sly commentary on how the internet has complicated our concerns about self-presentation and affected our relationships. I laughed out loud when I first read: “please/ Kickstart/ someone// you love.” A poem called “Remember:” is a short list of trending topics that culminates by naming the very medium in which it archives:
In charming contrast to the style of its language, the chapbook is a facsimile of a typewritten original, with the visual impact of a hand-crafted zine. Though the intimate physical construction seems to belie the very contemporary feel of textual appropriation, this handiwork, of course, has been Xeroxed and mass-produced for publication, reinforcing the collection’s questions of authenticity and originality. As in the best appropriations, I DON’T WANT ANYTHING manages to be more than merely clever and hip–it contains plenty of clever and hip poems, to be sure, but also numerous moments of heartfelt emotion. “heat, you Hot child/ STOP making me/ nervous. Everything I like// is 97% wrong.// WHEN can I love you/ & have it feel/ right.” one poem laments. In another, when Le Fraga writes “I am sick with/ sincerity,” I believe her.
All this said, don’t expect to read I DON’T WANT ANYTHING without having some fun. Queer readers will especially enjoy the nods to non-normative gender (“it would suck to be/ a BOY the whole time”) and sexuality (“@Lord:/ “talk me out of// ‘dicks’ tonight.// rite now/ i’m ‘that girl'”). As the end of “WHOA MY SOUL” promises:
WE ARE ALL
GOING TO HAVE
A DISEMBODIED TIME
I DON’T WANT ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE INTERNET
By Sophia Le Fraga
Keep This Bag Away From Children
Paper, 43 pp.