Tender Machines

by J. Mae Barizo


“J. Mae Barizo is a poet of uncommon grace.
These poems are a singing gift.”

—Sarah Ruhl



Format: Paperback/Hardcover
Published: May 2023

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ISBN: 978-1-946482-84-6 Categories: , ,

“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

“J. Mae Barizo’s Tender Machines is a sinuous wonder that explores the poles of revelation and disappearance. It is a meditation on tenderness, yes, and gives haunting new language to the in-betweens of motherhood, love, anguish, and empire. With music and lyricism as twin pillars, Tender Machines is a breathtaking second collection by a masterful poet.”

Rio Cortez

“Spanning from Manila to Manhattan, … at the center of this web is the speaker, hungry: searching, searching, searching. For silence, for kinship with other women, for history. This preoccupation with the silence is of special interest to Barizo, a musician and multimedia artist who is interested in the poetics of sound… and music becomes both a refuge from and a mirror to the speaker’s own concerns….

“The jagged, asymmetrical lines mimic the musicality of the language and the cinematic quality of falling—and being—in love… Ultimately, in Tender Machines, J. Mae Barizo creates a space of beauty, attentiveness, and grace towards the self and its many incarnations. I admire this collection for the way in which the elegant, slightly elegiac language conveys restraint, even as the self, ‘rapacious,’ hungers for more. It truly is a work of tenderness and generosity.”

Ananya Kanai Shah in The Adroit Journal

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
photo: Carol Gimbel

J. Mae Barizo is a poet, essayist and multidisciplinary artist who works at the intersection of poetics, media and performance. She is the author of two books of poetry, The Cumulus Effect (Four Way Books, 2015) and Tender Machines (Tupelo Press, 2023). Her book of hybrid essays on John Cage and the poetics of sound was a finalist for the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize. Her work has been anthologized in books published by W.W. Norton, Atelier Editions and Harvard University Press.  She is also the recipient of fellowships and awards from Bennington College, Mellon Foundation, Critical Minded, Jerome Foundation and Poets House. Recent writing appears in Poetry, Ploughshares, Esquire, Los Angeles Review of Books, Paris Review Daily, Boston Review, BookForum, among others. She is on the board of Kundiman, an organization supporting writers and readers from the Asian diaspora. She has taught at the Pratt Institute, Eugene Lang and Parsons School of Design. She teaches at The New School and lives in New York City.

Additional information

Weight 0.3 lbs
Dimensions 6 × 9 in