Machines We Have Built by Gian Lombardo
Quale Press/Clearsound, 2014; 81 pp
Reviewed by Vladislav Frederick


Gian Lombardo delivers poetry by the mouthful, producing bite-sized engines comprised of immaculate vocabulary parts whose unified churnings drive introspection. In Machines We Have Built, each poem is concentrated, an engine with a singularly specific task. Lombardo’s titles are the birth of this task, pieces of statement that coalesce into a singular philosophic thought or question; almost as often, the titles are sparks of imperative, commands that draw the reader in, creating from them a new, complicit cog in the poem’s machine.

Lombardo relies on a condensed delivery of paragraph-shaped poems crafted with a masterful command of language that obviates any need for verbosity, as can be seen in the following full-length poem, TRAPPED AND CIRCLED WITH NO SECOND CHANCES, featured below.

CHANCES, the most stubborn make the great-
est effort to restock illicit substances. That’s
what’s demanded of them. Not some sort of
intelligent redistribution, but spellbinding
relief in the comfort of their very own
decrepitude. Down deep.

Title and body are contextually married in this poem, a theme that is constant to the collection. This union tends to create a more closed poem, one whose direction is more specifically imaginable, less vague or open to interpretation. Such a clarity is not displeasing, however, as it inspires a sense of wholeness to each poem; it is this tangibility to Lombardo’s captured abstracts that makes the poems of Machines We Have Built so enjoyable, providing fertile ground for Lombardo’s wry wit and often fatalistic sense of humor. Indeed, this humor can best be tasted in the title poem of the collection, which makes a fitting conclusion to this review.  

MACHINES WE HAVE BUILT have been caught
erasing blackboards. Now we cannot remem-
ber our assignments. Now we have no clue.
Now we just have this lousy excuse. Thanks.