A b o u t
P o e m s

Unlikely Designs


The University of Chicago Press
Phoenix Poets Series


September 2017

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University of Chicago Press,





A collection intent on worrying the boundaries between natural and unnatural, human and not, Unlikely Designs draws far-ranging source material from the back channels of knowledge-making: the talk pages of Wikipedia, the personal writings of Charles Darwin, the love advice doled out by chatbots, and the eclectic inclusions on the Golden Record time capsule. It is here we discover the allure of the index, what pleasure there is in bending it to our own devices. At the same time, these poems also remind us that logic is often reckless, held together by nothing more than syntactical short circuits—well, I mean, sorry, yes—prone to cracking under closer scrutiny. Returning us again and again to these gaps, Katie Willingham reveals how any act of preservation is inevitably an act of curation, an outcry against the arbitrary, by attempting to make what is precious also what survives.


“Katie Willingham’s superbly agile and ambitious poems are marvels of intellection, but first and foremost they are fun. Local pleasures – of pacing, idiom, juxtaposition, insight – are bountiful beyond all measure and beneath them lies a breadth of vision that is metaphysical in its sweep. I cannot say enough in praise of this brilliant work.”—Linda Gregerson


“I like Willingham’s adventurous, meaningful mix of different kinds of images, ideas, and language—from the Internet, from digital media and digital games, from the work and life of Charles Darwin: purposeful, as well as inclusive. Here is a book of poetry about important matters that is also fun to read.”—Robert Pinsky


“‘Crack a name open and you will find a wealth of creatures / building a tiny kingdom.’ With wry humor, considerable savvy, and an endless reserve of empathy, Katie Willingham’s Unlikely Designs brilliantly deciphers the illogical loops, ghosts, and glitches of our day, from lascivious Japanese robots to the body of Hugo Chavez. When you need to flood an empty room with conversation, reach for this book.”—Tung-Hui Hu


Adroit Journal, Interview with Marlin Jenkins

Rain Taxi Review of BooksInterview with Graham Sutherland

MQR Blog, Interview with Lauren Prastien

Orange Quarterly, Interview with Allison Peters

Boxcar Review, Reviewed by K. R. Miller


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