Love Algorithm: Eleni Cay, Black Spring Press
Eleni Cay is a Slovakian-born poet living in England and Norway, and writes in a number of languages. She has published one previous full collection, and three pamphlets.
You might say that her languages include digital. Cay’s view in Love Algorithm is that, like it or lump it, poetry must recognise the part that internet interactions and transactions play in relationships. Such narratives “do not follow scheduled / serendipity. When they break up / there are not suitcases by the door: / just a switch flicked on an invisible wall” (‘Digital Loves’). In ‘Wireless For Free’, the narrator is impressed that on their first date, “he didn’t ask for her Facebook avatar”, while in ‘Money, Money, Money’
Our cleaner knows
what you wear, Amazon knows what you like.
All I know is the figure in our shared account.
She has an eye for odd, intimate moments (“I love brushing my teeth with you”), and for arresting phrases: “You rolled down the car window / poked your head out like a Labrador” (‘Journeyings’). In ‘Post-Brexit Thurrock’ she observes:
People converse less, compete more.
A fat man looks at his fat son.
If he could, he would suck him to the bone.
The poet is not unaware of how others live, or scrape a living. In one poem, a meal is shared with a down-and-out: “We are all caught up in the same rat race; / the plutocrats got us all.” (‘Dining with a Homeless Man from Hove’). Meanwhile in London,
The homeless Romanian doesn’t care about time. He’s happy
with pizza and cheap wine at 6am, his party time scheduled
by a clink of coins, not incoming mail in a work inbox
(‘Morning in Soho’)
The final poem in the collection is, perhaps inevitably, titled ‘The Last Post’:
She’s now re-tweeting my words
into your inbox. The algorithms
spread the content across the world
This collection took me by surprise. There is a freshness and high-spirited openness to Eleni Cay’s poetry that I found engaging. This exhilarating collection should appeal both to the young, and to the young at heart.