In 'Human Resources,' Ryann Stevenson finds her voice by working on AI Ryann Stevenson's debut collection Human Resources won the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize. It looks at how technology both connects and separates us.

In 'Human Resources,' a poet finds her voice by working on artificial intelligence

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Ryann Stevenson designs smart speaker voices for an artificial intelligence firm. On the job, she ended up finding her own voice as a poet. And NPR's Jeevika Verma says that led to her poetry collection called "Human Resources."

JEEVIKA VERMA, BYLINE: Ryann Stevenson wasn't feeling very stimulated at her publishing job in New York. Then her husband found work in the Bay Area.

RYANN STEVENSON: As we were thinking about our move, someone shared with me this article. I think it came out in Washington Post. It was titled "The Next Hot Job In Silicon Valley Is For Poets." And I basically just emailed every startup that was listed in that article and ended up talking with a CEO of a very small startup right away.

VERMA: At her new job, she realized she was thinking about poetry every day.

STEVENSON: We were designing conversational interfaces for speakers, like, smart speakers. And I was thinking a lot about voice and specifically disembodied speakers calling to, like, an unknown user. And to me, this had a direct correlation to the speaker of a poem and the readers.

VERMA: In Stevenson's new book, the speaker is often isolated even as she's building technology that's supposed to connect people. Much of this isolation came from being a woman in a male-dominated industry.

STEVENSON: Building voices that were designed to be predominantly female. And thinking about that from my point of view and my perspective, as usually, like, one of the only women in the room, was something that I was navigating.

VERMA: She talks about this in her poem "The Valley." Here's an excerpt.

STEVENSON: (Reading) "We want them to look and act human but not too real, get it?", my boss said, touching the dip in a line graph, the uncanny valley.

VERMA: Isolation and objectification, these are the themes that unite Stevenson with a sisterhood of poets. Only this time, the landscape is Silicon Valley.

Jeevika Verma, NPR News.

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