praise for not human enough for the census
In Erik Fuhrer's not human enough for the census, there are creatures of dark habits, organ breathers, tree butchers, and 1 in 100 scientists agree the state of god is liquid. In these poems, aftermath requires a new language. Dust and ash compound with mother and father, mud compounds with blossom. These spare lyrics contain numerous transformations, and "just because the body is gone/does not mean the absence of body is gone." Absences loom everywhere--the mouth, the breath, the treacherous god in the tempest.
In Erik Fuhrer’s Not Human Enough for the Census, toxins inhabit the living like ghosts moving through generations, as silent and unseen as they are deadly; there’s “oil in blood, breastmilk, saliva” and bodies with coal for eyes…. That is, the fluidity of his verse blurs the boundaries between bodies and their environment; it exposes hurricanes as climate ignorance, and shows how, here in the age of the Anthropocene, poetry can evoke a sense of the anti-nature we're ushering into being.
In this era of crisis, the blending of scholarship and artistry on what the relations between and across species are and can be is more than necessary. Enticing, disruptive, engaging, difficult, compassionate, this volume helps us navigate the more and less than human centered experience. Erik Fuhrer asks us to think with, about, and through being multispecies with others and inside ourselves. The collection shakes us awake, inviting us to relinquish our skins and be fleshy, co-sanguineous, and resist distancing from the world that contains us all.
In the way that Max Ernst’s coral-esque frottage images mimic both childhood-memory-cave and an unknown void of future, Erik Fuhrer’s book straddles times, worlds, sensibilities. I always read for influences, allusion, and inflection—and this text invites a lot of that! I thought of Feng Sun Chen, Kim Hyesoon (via Don Mee Choi), Miranda Mellis, Cody-Rose Clevidence, Lorine Niedecker, Franz Kafka, e e cummings, and even Tom Waits, Tarkovsky, the band Tennis . . . something about the fluctuating scopes (tiny, dollhouse-ish, concerned with an individual experience of grief, while also clearly slackjaw in fear at our real global crises), something about a goose living in an attic, with bullets in its feather-spaces. Come to think of it, there are just so many feathers and wings and breaths. There is the upset of observation and surveillance while in the affect of this end-of-the-world world, surfaces, dehumanizing documents, “ERROR 666:
?breathwriting?” There is the slippery feeling of moving into sleep, but a sleep that is all fear:“many times at night I look into the creature and slide/ under the pillow/ like a feathered toad.” It’s how you feel when you end your nightmare and experience loss. It’s how you feel when that happens and it’s also a terrible nightmare to live in this actual world, and all that feeling is a “volcano exploding/ with glistening lips.”
Fuhrer is a singular talent. These poems form their own island in poetry’s crowded ocean. The space, the absences, the mysteries speaking just as loud as the indentations such writing inevitably leaves. In not human enough for the census, Fuhrer has mastered the physical space of poetry alongside the glorious absences that proper landscaping can create.
The spacing of the poems coupled with the permissively decaying imagery makes for an unfamiliarity that describes things that are not the things described and breeds recognition on a land owned by embodiment. This is giddily annihilative stuff.