Operating Systems (Autobiomythography III)

Spork Press, 138 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-948510-18-9
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“This expansive, ambitious collection by Joe Pan further exemplifies his talent for blending genres and pushing formally experimental narratives and lyrics into a wild array of thought-provoking poetry. From the familial to the fantastical to the socially political, Pan’s maximalist style doesn’t miss much. An SPD Best Seller for 2019.”

“Ode to the MQ-9 Reaper”—a long poem about drone warfare being taught in classrooms around the country, downloadable hereOperating Systems approaches our complicated and shifting histories with empathy and an eye for the absurd.



“Frenetic, rhythmic, sonically rich—Operating Systems is an ”effort in self-documentation/self-reconstruction,” but more broadly, these poignant poems characterize the self in relation to its many communities, both imagined and real. Steeped in mythology, music, film, poetry, medicine, homelessness, social media, family, drones—chronicling the inner workings of the systems that rule our lives—Joe Pan’s poetry approaches these concerns with a mixture of compassion, glee, terror, and fascination. These poems thump their way through time and genre while slantingly interrogating the innovative ways empire undoes itself.”
-Daniel Borzutzky, National Book Award Winner

“In a time when too many poems subsist on faded reflection and fingerpointing dressed up as ideas, Joe Pan is bringing expansive diction, finely characterized addressees, and raucous, digressive story-telling. His poetry is grounded in a combination of deeply prosodic vocal sensibility and protean wit, opening up the range necessary to channel the absurd and incendiary volume of detail endemic to our rather insane common world. That the poems elude cynicism without eliminating either hard truths or the capacity for satirical tonalities speaks to their ability to consistently re-imagine the curious plurality of that “you” one is constantly lookingfor, and after.”
-Anselm Berrigan

“With fearsome virtuosity and ambition, Joe Pan’s Operating Systems weaves the madness of our socio-political and cultural moment with family history, autobiography, myth, economic exigency, and the scrim of digital technology that overlays all of our contemporary lives. In stutters of ingenious lexical play, Pan’s breathless poems beautifully enact the difficulty of utterance and of connection, and the anxiety and fragility of living in uncertain and morally bankrupt times. This is a heartbreaking work of formal risks you will return to again and again, “every room of text a honeymoon suite with at least one lover left to wonder in it”; I am so grateful for these deftly crafted rooms, for the wildness of their vision and the depth of their insistence.”
-Debora Kuan



BROOKLYN RAIL, JC Hallman: “‘I just discovered this form yesterday,’ Pan writes, earlier in the book, but it applies best to the sprawling formless form of this hulking, brilliant anthem, this ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ of a poem. It goes on to become a way of addressing Pan’s own younger self, a personified lost innocence, and the Reaper becomes a figure of national tragedy, a character really not so different from the tall hooded farmer for which it was named. While praising it as poetry, and Pan as a poet, I want to scream that ‘Ode to the MQ-9 Reaper’ is not just a poem—it’s a memoir and an essay and a white paper about black hearts and black death. It’s a sermon, and a polemic, and a treatise, and an ars poetica, and if you think I’m overselling it, then just go and read it, and see for yourself. I dare you.”

HEAVY FEATHER REVIEW, Eric Aldrich: It’s uncomfortable to struggle with [“Ode to the MQ-9 Reaper’s”] ethical dilemmas. Pan reminds us we are complicit in the Reaper’s exploits without shying away from the barriers to avoiding culpability….The collection’s diversity is also a strength and most readers will find something to challenge or surprise them.”

PRISM REVIEW, Christine Martins: “Operating Systems is a brilliant book.”

WRATH BEARING TREE, Adrian Bonenberger: Joe Pan popped up on many veteran writers’ radars in 2014. He had recently written the first great poem about what let’s call the Global War on Terror, “Ode to the MQ-9 Reaper.” At that time it was possible to find the poem in pdf via Pan’s website…. Many downloaded it and read it, and reread it, and were carried away by its vision and drive, and talked about it over beers in trendy taverns. It is a powerful poem, urgent, reckless; it is also, in its own way, scored through with hope and possibility. In the MQ-9 Reaper’s flight one hears the screech and wail of Hart Crane’s “The Tunnel”—one also sees the flash of a seagull’s wings, turning over the Brooklyn Bridge and out to sea…”