The poems in not human enough for the census wear strange masks. Each brief, carefully poised section begins with a piece of visual art from Erik Fuhrer’s collaborator Kimberly Androlowicz that not only enhance the poems, but create a kind of visual entrance toward discovering the depth behind each string of words. The dual act of reading and seeing eventually leads to an unmasking of the truth buried within.
While Fuhrer’s writing often feels opaque, he offers the reader enough clues, enough glimmers of clarity to shape something from the clay he offers. These are not poems to breeze through. They require thoughtful reading, from title on down to final line. To not use care results in bewilderment, but in taking time to digest what Fuhrer sets out to accomplish, I find entire gold mines beneath the surface on every page.
Extinction becomes a whole new scar as Fuhrer brings knives to these poetic fistfights. In “[the buffalo]”, Fuhrer has the human antagonists wearing their fur as buffalos begin to consider themselves little more than window dressing for a future time before he writes, “the only future is fiction / and the present is only / a panel of three / that decides our fate / as a species.” Soon after he takes humanity to task over our treatment of nature when he notes “we never / gave a shit / about bodies / that did not walk / upright)”. His ability to launch such salvos amidst often strangely endowed poems is a mark of supreme vision and execution.
While I would not go so far as to call what Fuhrer writes visual poetry, he excels at using the full landscape of a page, his poems often veering into columns along the right side of the page, every line break a jolt of energy, forcing a thrilling type of scansion on the reader. He also sometimes splits words or converges them into multi-constructs in ways that feel equally fanciful or haunting, such that I am reminded of the neologisms made of familiar language McCarthy had a penchant for in his seminal work The Road. These are not fantasy words, but words evolved, a tricky thing for an author to leverage effectively, though Fuhrer shows a special sharpness in their deployment here.
These poems change the reader’s perception on language, creating a near-hallucinatory experience as I flip through the pages. While seeming to revel in strangeness, Fuhrer does not neglect the world, his rhetoric rising through a vortex to punch beyond any weight class, which reaches its most rousing in “[8 millimeter body]”. The poem begins, “doesn’t understand that NRA stands for / never / returning / again” before snaking its way through six more burning lines. Fuhrer thus convinces me no logical argument could ever compare to poetry’s capacity for emotional persuasion.
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. As he notes near the end, “just because the body is gone / does not mean the absence of the body is gone.”
not human enough for the census is published by Vegetarian Alcoholic Press.