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Manual Random Hill

Manual Random Hill

Praise for Manual Random Hill


Many books talk about the impact of technology and media on our daily lives, but few give us new ways of finding human ground through technology and media. Manual Random Hill, Patrick Williams’ remarkable debut, delivers tight, nostalgia-free poems about an analog world slowly weaving itself into the digital fabric of our daily lives. Williams reveals intellectually sharp, intimate and deeply human shapes hidden in the seemingly mundane interactions of our screen-focused and off-screen lives. The poems work to deftly remediate the constant presence of data around us and remind us that “You & I are merely squatters/on the tiniest parcel of joint and muscle/pain.” Manual Random Hill is a remedy we sorely need. —Sean M. Conrey, author of The Book of Trees (Saint Julian Press, 2017)


Patrick Williams’s poems generously track the inaudible pulses, rowdy beeps, and silent collapses occurring at the interface between people and their tools: “When you look at me I feel like a newborn / mini drone tangled tightly in your sister’s hair.” The losses in this book may at first seem invisible and mundane, but Williams’ meticulous craft delivers their profound weight. So grieve when “[e]very tinny robocall / timeshifts to voicemail and is marked unheard,” and then “remember / how payphones once told us / to wait and listen.” Williams has built these poems tenderly to move us towards one another, toward the reality of the state of our planet, and to call us to attention. These are urgent poems of connection right when we need them: “Just know that when I write “Take care,” says Williams, “what I mean you to read is “survive.”–Jesse Nissim, author of Day cracks between the bones of the foot (Furniture Press Books, 2015) and Where They Would Never Be Invited (Black Radish Books, 2016)


Sample of the poems


Leave Me Your Slide Rule

Static charges are given an effective path

to the ground thanks to the strip of plastic 

warming in your loafer. Something to prevent 

the snap death of supercomputers who hum 

and crunch as we walk among them, you 

explained. I knew it then: to live with such 

vulnerability demanded systemic finesse

I’d never muster. I mean, imagine catching 

hell for all that data’s fluky ruin. Your every

working moment militarized, each day built 

of spillable secrets future you’d wish he never 

had to know. Think, Smash! is your thought balloon

in that college-era caricature, pencil behind ear.

You are the ne plus ultra of operations research.


Your Kind Attention Please

A children’s book should not reveal 

our planet to hurtle forever in a corkscrew 

motion. Or any objects to move in two 

or more directions at once. Just like you 

should not tell me the vacation spot 

I mention was mostly destroyed by last

month’s floods. We already sent the deposit. 

The clever food and beverage pairings 

are lost on most patrons as they behold

your dinky illusions. Some have even left 

their over-cushioned barstools to marvel 

at the cardboard box of pale deer bones 

carefully placed on the lip of the stage.


New Telegraphy

Forget those stylish communiqués

shilling synthetic facial hair and framed 

giclées of suburban drugstore aisles. 

If you succeed, you will soon bask in glory. 


In this method, what you eventually learn 

is that you are the instrument. 

Most of the variance is explained

by you. Try wishing that away.


When we share line-of-sight, you’ll realize.

I am a famous actor’s skeleton. 

You know him, he’s talking aliens 

on video loop at the Duty Free.


I am all the unenclosed space

in Shannon’s Schematic Diagram 

of a General Communication System

That’s figure one in the original text.


In our version, most of the boxes have 

been replaced with latex horror masks. 

Where once were one-way arrows

now are knotty bootlaces.


In the center, the small nameless box

does not change. It is our index.

It is our compass rose. Remember, it’s eight-

to-one bits of English text to entropy.


You will also learn not to mention

something’s validity since we don’t 

really use that term, despite what 

you have probably read. It’s suspect.


I am the instrument. I am suspect.

I am the season’s last snowball,

saved in the freezer until it’s clear

and far too hard to dream of throwing.


Rental Period

Borrow a quarter and press 

your face to the steel. Steady 

the scope on the ramps and lifts

at thirteen degrees. That’s left.


The anxious ticking stands for time, 

the silence for it’s up, for even 

the iris of this soda straw of sense 

is too much to take in for long.


Face the queue of other tourists. 

Watch them pull what they can

of moments-older peaks before

each lease on the gaze expires.

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