How to Make an Algorithm in the Microwave (Etel Adnan Poetry Series) (Paperback)
Winner, 2022 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize
“We need a new poetry lexicon—a new way of moleculing the poem on the page, even—and Maya Salameh brings it. We need all the strange Arabic-diasporic ways we can find for being in this terrible and joyful and often frighteningly banalizing world, and Salameh’s poems are a generous find. Her writing is an unexpected cousin in the colonized and capitalism-razed city, bewildering and divining things you’ve never heard but want to learn. . . . Prepare to be stretched and delighted.”
—Mohja Kahf, from the Foreword
The divine and the digital achieve a distinct corporality in Maya Salameh’s HOW TO MAKE AN ALGORITHM IN THE MICROWAVE, winner of the 2022 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize. Layering prayer with code, Salameh brings supposedly unassailable technological constructs like algorithm, recursion, and loop into conversation with the technologies of womanhood, whether liner, lipstick, or blood. Exploring the relationships we have with our devices, she speaks back to the algorithm (“a computer’s admission to blood”), which acts simultaneously as warden, confidant, and data thief.
Here Salameh boldly examines how an Arab woman survives the digitization of her body—experimenting with form to create an intimate collage of personal and neocolonial histories, fearlessly insinuating herself into the scripts that would otherwise erase her, and giving voice to the full mess of ritual.
About the Author
Maya Salameh is a poet fellow of the William Male Foundation and a former National Student Poet, America’s highest honor for youth poets. Salameh currently serves as community organizer for Stanford University’s Institute for Diversity in the Arts. She is the author of the chapbook rooh, and her poems have appeared in Poetry magazine, The Rumpus, ANMLY, and Mizna, among other publications.
“HOW TO MAKE AN ALGORITHM IN THE MICROWAVE upends every way I’ve ever used the term ‘multilingual.’ These poems crackle with language, a cacophony of Arabic and English and French and code and formal invention and song lyrics and photographs and footnotes. Maya Salameh gives everything a voice—speakers across many comings of age, cities, pop stars, the digital world—and the result is lush and orchestral, searing and intelligent and incredibly fun. We are so lucky. I am so lucky, to read and learn from Maya Salameh, luminous inventor, luminous interrogator.”
—Safia Elhillo, author of The January Children
“Maya Salameh’s HOW TO MAKE AN ALGORITHM IN THE MICROWAVE carries the echo of the wild diasporic future in the late American empire of now. Employing computer code, Punnett squares, experimental prayers, and anarchic prose, Salameh writes herself a homeland made of a language redolent of celebrated flesh, a zajal between Fairouz and Amy Winehouse. ‘I pull at the serifs on words,’ she writes in ‘Case Study on Me & Sunlight’: ‘the old meanings / of rain. there are still some joints in / my elbows I have never / read.’ Point to any page and you’ll say, psalm. You’ll say, not dead. You’ll see: future.”
—Philip Metres, author of Sand Opera and Shrapnel Maps