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3:AM MAGAZINE (Megan Jeanne Gette), review
COMMONPLACE (Katherine Beaman), review
NEW SINEWS (Steve Barbaro), review
THE PARIS REVIEW (Sabrina Orah Mark), review
ASTER(IX) (Sue Rainford), review
ENTROPY: Best of 2018, review
MEDIUM: anomaly blog (Genève Chao), review
SPD, (Janice Worthen), staff picks
LIBRAIRIE DRAWN & QUARTERLY (Staff), staff picks
ENTROPY (Mike Corrao), review
diaCRITICS (Eric Nguyen), review
PEN AMERICA: Expanding Your Understanding: a reading list
JACKET 2: (Orchid Tierney), review
ACTION BOOKS: (Am Ringwalt),  review
WESTERN HUMANITIES REVIEW (Michelle Macfarlane), review


in Brooklyn Rail

in Poor Claudia


BERL'S: May 17. 2018

Vi Khi Nao's ekphrastic SHEEP MACHINE seems to control time or at least "transform[s] our comprehension" of it, dropping one down into a moment that stretches out and out. Mesmerized, I fall into the frame where I can hear the grass grumble out of the ground centimeter by centimeter, the click of a beetle's legs on a blade, and sheep quiver every molecule in my being with a simple twitch: "I am a backdrop against another backdrop." Here, there seems to be so much space to contemplate perception and its tricks, to step—in terror and delight—off the edge into imagination: "Is art created by the malfunction of shadow or the malfunction of perception?" SHEEP MACHINE flips the familiar. It cuts every tether. As each element transforms, becoming a little strange and a little terrifying, discovery is again possible: "So much to hear and feel and so little to say. Is life a little monstrous?" This wonderful book reminded me, "Each moment of existence is to be cherished. Each second is perishable. So much takes place in one threshold of time."

SPD (August 2018), Janice Worthen, staff picks


“The unglamorous labor of ‘logging’ footage is, like childbirth, often seen as a necessary torment best forgotten once its productive work is done. But in Sheep Machine, a reverse log of Leslie Thornton’s video work of the same name, Vi Khi Nao empowers this deceptively objective art of time-coded naming (‘00:00 Pitch-black,’ ‘00:01 This is wheat & grass’) with a wild heart, a deep ethics, and the slant-philosophical poetics that returns me continuously to her gorgeous, necessary (and frankly addictive) work. Nao demonstrates, again and again, how—when seen through her grace-shaped lens—‘[e]ven wheat becomes wild.’” —Anna Moschovakis

“Vi Khi Nao’s poetic ekphrasis of Leslie Thornton’s Sheep Machine is a visceral companion to an optical theatre of ordinary and extraordinary images that rub off the burning edge of consciousness. Frame by frame, the reader is taken to experience perception as beauty when ‘grass bends itself to experience paradise’ or metamorphosis of sober solitude into ventriloquial mediation and meditation, ‘as if to breathe resurrection.’ This is hallucinatingly generative work. Here’s your flight through Vi Khi Nao’s language machine.” —Dong Li

“Sheep Machine is a series of ekphrastic poetic essays that act as a portal into the luminous power of perception. Within three minutes of observing hypnotic images of sheep grazing on a mountainside, we encounter a world in which blades of wheat ‘perform like semi-phantom needles, drinking in the earth’s health and drilling the air with an intangible caress,’ and enter a landscape where we are able ‘to see the terror tucked on the side of the pastured mountain.’ Through diligent, rich, and elegant description, Sheep Machine slides through philosophical discourse on suffering, volition, and intimacy. Vi Khi Nao’s utterly original voice penetrates the mundane with brilliant, erotic, fanciful observation grounded in perspicacious humanity. Here is a gaze of dynamic stillness where we ‘[l]ook at how strong the shadows breathe on the insides of the sheep’s legs.’ As the seconds tick by in Sheep Machine, we are drawn into a mesmerizing exploration of what it means to be profoundly and urgently awake.” —Alison Prine

“Vi Khi Nao’s Sheep Machine feels to me like an intricate re-lensing of the very process of seeing. Beauty, and horror, can shapeshift from second to second. Beauty, or reality, can transmogrify from organic to mechanistic, word to word, image by subtly shifting image. The line between object as object—far removed and bucolic as a sheep in the grass—and object as something terrifying in its power to obfuscate, mesmerize, or horrify is constantly evolving in these pages. As Nao inventively and with painstaking patience transposes image to the obtuse realm of text, the gaze becomes an action we tumble into, that kaleidoscopes intricacies of vision—or in-sight—spinning away within us. In this manner the poet challenges us to keep our seeing alive: ‘To pull back the gaze is to say: I am done with being a machine.’” —Dao Strom

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