REVERSE ENGINEER by Kate Colby
published October 2022
perfect bound trade paperback
9 x 6 inches, 71 pages
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Praise for REVERSE ENGINEER
Informed by contemporary physics and by epistemology, Reverse Engineer is a book about what defies description and eludes understanding. Kate Colby acknowledges this conundrum. Thinking about the self and the universe, we tie ourselves in knots. A poem may be such a knot—or so Colby suggests: “A poem’s a Rube Goldberg doo- / hickey to elicit a flicker—I die / while I’m writing , if as yet not / of it.” I think I will always remember these lines, this flicker.
—Rae Armantrout, author of Finalists
Reverse Engineer is full of daisy-chained aphorisms apophatically accounting for what thinking is like (“a simile works / like this”), extending beyond sense so that sensation gets severely enjambed, and I get to feeling , “I am what’s needed / of my own erasure.” I love how Kate Colby’s poems hurt “me.”
—Aditi Machado, author of Emporium
Kate Colby’s eighth collection, Reverse Engineer, is an elegant and inquisitive unraveling of how language shapes our relationship to the world, to ourselves, and to each other. Colby uses simple words and twisty syntax to embody the process of reverse engineering language-based relationships; with questions and humor, she finds the traps and trapdoors in our language.
—Randall Potts, "The Sense of Words: Reverse Engineer by Kate Colby," The Rumpus, December 28, 2022
The title poem, “Reverse Engineer,” rubs the definition, or the act of defining, in order to draw closer to meaning and language. Borrowing apophatic strategies from mystical theology, Kate Colby approaches the real by negation, by speaking only of what cannot be said. Each word is a mystery, and attempting to speak of the human condition leads to this sort of repetitive negation. The mode of defining by undoing is visible in “Integer,” for example, where an asterisk in the poem (“*a thing complete in itself “) doesn’t designate a note at the bottom of the page. Here, the asterisk is the thing complete in itself, rather than serving its usual referential role. The asterisk signals something, but gives us nothing. I still can’t get over it.
—Alina Stefanescu, "Alina Stefanescu's Year in Reading, 2022," Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau blog, February 24, 2023
Reverse Engineer begins with an epigraph from Rosmarie Waldrop that reads, “doubting I love while knowing I’ve wanted to.” In many ways, this is what Colby spends the entire collection exploring; doubt and love are central to this beautiful collection, as the speaker questions what love is, what we are, and how we make meaning.
—Chase Cate, "Reverse Engineer," Colorado Review, November 4, 2022
Like a small cadre of similarly clear-eyed poets (William Bronk comes to mind first among the dead, Natalie Shapero foremost among the living), Colby sees a whole harmony of the spheres in human constructions – their follies, their desperate dependencies, their musical seriousness – and lets us her readers in on the joke.
—Tom Snarsky, "Review of Kate Colby's Reverse Engineer," Neutral Spaces, October 1, 2022
In a conversation with Al Filreis and Laynie Browne, On Kate Colby's "Problem," Kate Colby provides insight into one poem in Reverse Engineer on UPenn’s ModPo poetry video series.
"Night Vision" was the featured poem on Poetry Daily, December 15, 2022
Kate Colby discusses and reads from Reverse Engineer on Cindy Arrieu-King's The Last Word podcast, January 18, 2023