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Unlikely Designs

A collection intent on worrying the boundaries between natural and unnatural, human and not, Unlikely Designs draws far-ranging source material from the back channels of knowledge making: the talk pages of Wikipedia, the personal writings of Charles Darwin, the love advice doled out by chatbots, and the eclectic inclusions on the Golden Record time capsule. It is here we discover the allure of the index, what pleasure there is in bending it to our own devices. At the same time, these poems also remind us that logic is often reckless, held together by nothing more than syntactical short circuits—well, I mean, sorry, yes—prone to cracking under closer scrutiny. Returning us again and again to these gaps, Katie Willingham reveals how any act of preservation is inevitably an act of curation, an outcry against the arbitrary, by attempting to make what is precious also what survives.

104 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2017

Phoenix Poets



Unlikely Designs is shaped around Darwin’s writings and they serve as levers for Willingham to jump into a web of topics. The poems often disarm the reader with strange humor and twist toward issues of growth and death . . . . Willingham doesn’t use her base texts as a crutch, but instead interrogates Darwin, explores the impact of technology on our daily lives, and implores the reader to consider: what does it mean to survive?”

Rain Taxi

“I like Willingham’s adventurous, meaningful mix of different kinds of images, ideas, and language—from the Internet, from digital media and digital games, from the work and life of Charles Darwin: purposeful, as well as inclusive. Here is a book of poetry about important matters that is also fun to read.”

Robert Pinsky

“Katie Willingham’s superbly agile and ambitious poems are marvels of intellection, but first and foremost they are fun. Local pleasures—of pacing, idiom, juxtaposition, insight—are bountiful beyond all measure and beneath them lies a breadth of vision that is metaphysical in its sweep. I cannot say enough in praise of this brilliant work.”

Linda Gregerson

Table of Contents


I.          Terrifying Robot Update                                                                                           
Nine Ways in which Pac-Man Speaks to the Human Condition                               
Correction: Tonight Is Not the Longest Night in the History of Earth                     
Found Objects (A Starter Set)                                                                                   
Eight years ago,
Unlikely Designs                                                                                                        

II.        Darwin (disambiguation)                                                                                           
Staying Power                                                                                                            
When I Ask the Internet If the Sun Is a Ball of Fire                                                 
If Not for the Intervention of Man, or Darwinist Logic on Freebies                        
Darwinist Logic on Pattern Recognition
Red, Save!                                                                                                                 

III.       Darwinist Logic on Unrequited Love
Let’s Hope Kepler-186f Is Barren                                                                             
Darwinist Logic on Disappointment
Bad Instructions for Approaching Warp Speed                                                        

IV.       Dear Charlie                                                                                                               
Twitch (disambiguation)
A Partial List of Overwriting Errors
Honey Locust
In Defense of Nature Poetry
Internal Reasons and the Obscurity of Blame                                                           

V.        The Golden Record

VI.       Darwinist Logic on Humanity
Artifact (disambiguation)
Artifact (disambiguation)
Artifacts, handling
Artifact (disambiguation)
Darwin (disambiguation)
Artifact (disambiguation)
—        Notes on Relief
Salt (disambiguation)

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