For William Carlos Williams, poetry was a war machine, a “small (or large) machine made of words.” If the war is a human war on other species, do poetry machines become poetry animals? Can we read Christopher Dewdney's “Permugenesis,” Marianne Moore's “An Octopus,” or Francis Ponge's “Notes Toward a Shell” as recombinant textual animals? Attention to intimate form locates structures of feeling in procedures that distribute agency. Jonathan Skinner's warbler poems (“Magnolia,” “Northern Parula,” “Myrtle”) compose with field-based constraints to make poetry an instrument of perception and interspecies research, a “singing with,” not just about or like, the nonhuman animal. The infrahuman sounds of Lila Zemborain's jellyfish (“Mauve Sea Orchids”) or the revolving phonemes of Emily Dickinson's hummingbird (“A route of evanescence”) organize perception and citation along indeterminate somatic pathways, where deep listening operates a reading machine. Faced with an age of extinction, remembering Cecilia Vicuña's and Antonin Artaud's call for a poetics of volatile agency and of bodily change, let us write island preserves of animality into the subject.
Poetry animals are “thoughts on things,” like the plumage of Lorine Niedecker's “Mergansers,” that “fold unfold / above the river beds.” In voicing the meandering pitches of Maggie O'Sullivan's “Starlings,” do we undergo kinship with animals? Poetry animals lose sight of teleology and move with periodic, inhuman intensities, allowing foreign organizations into the sphere of the human nervous system. To locate their “animalady,” poets might become reading and writing machines, to deconstruct the singular animal and listen as human animals.