Retrieval by Mallika Singh
Pamphlet / 8 x 6 in / 47 pp
Taking up the architecture and sonics of surveillance, Mallika Singh’s first chapbook, Retrieval explores the relationship between intimacy, data, and the structures of violence that entwine them. Singh’s work grows out of a study of the AT&T building in Lower Manhattan at 33 Thomas Street, revealed in 2016 to be TITANPOINTE, one of many operative NSA sites. Conceived as a self-contained city, the windowless structure is stocked with two-weeks’ worth of food and supplies and built to withstand earthquakes and nuclear attacks. At night, it hums, resounding with data that is protected and prized above the human life which generates it. Environmentally expansive, Singh's poems move between city and soil to think communication and protection outside of empire's forms and to ask what cannot be, perhaps refuses to be, catalogued, surveilled, quantified, and defined.
“Retrieval,” a word that is mechanical, perfunctory and human-less, is re-claimed and re-invented in Mallika Singh’s gorgeous new book. Singh’s Retrieval not only documents the insidious, imperialist greed that pervades and divides our cities, but locates and conjures a retrieval that is flushed with warmth and vision, where the “goal” is to dig deep to find pockets of generosity and new paths of resistance and healing. When Singh writes “imagine border turned sea, / sea ashine / soaked/ in sound, I feel / I have always been lucky / got my eyes full / of lightning,” you too will absorb and emanate that energy as you read Singh’s electric, smart, and moving words. —Jennifer Firestone