“Book Review: not human enough for the census”
Reviewed by Joseph Edwin Haeger
not human enough for the census is a collection of poems and images exploring how humans fit into the greater nature of existence.
not human enough for the census by Erik Fuhrer is a book of poetry with beautiful words complemented by beautiful images. Kimberly Androlowicz’s images have a distinct impression of nature that perfectly sets up the themes and emotions woven into this collection.
The first painting prepares us for the “not human enough for the census” section. It looks like a side view of soil beneath a pea-green sky and deep in the dirt we see shapes that appear to be soaking their surroundings with blood. Upon closer inspection these shapes appear to be fetuses in utero, making us realize we’re all children of the Earth. And then we’re off on Fuhrer’s poignant journey.
These poems are breaking down the idea of human exceptionalism and forcing us to confront what it means to share this planet. We fail in the balance between sustaining ourselves and respecting the nature we inhabit—we can’t help ourselves from overindulging. If we don’t make fundamental changes to how we use our planet’s resources, we won’t be able to ensure its continuation, and that’s the point Fuhrer is driving at. In the end, we simply consume because that’s what we’re built to do. Even when Fuhrer depicts our future, we can’t stop our instincts. We continue “slicing / down the petrified trees with its teeth” with no apparent end in sight.
At the start of the book there is a clear focus on the “other.” One part represents our true self—conscientious and respectful, looking at how we fit into the grand scheme of things—and then there’s the “other,” embodying our fears, shortcomings, and selfish natures. We live at a fractured time in history as we’re faced with so many opposing mental forces throughout our days. The misinformation that’s bred into even the most mundane moments is staggering, and I feel like not human enough for the census is a piece of work that compartmentalizes this noise and cuts to the root of our problems. This book is showing us the follies of being a human on the macro scale. It also has two modes of existence: on one hand, it’s a call for action, hoping we’ll save our future generations, and on the other, it’s a call for resignation because we’re too far gone. Holding both optimism and pessimism might seem contradictory, but we do it every day, and having both in one collection is consoling because it makes us feel a little saner.
The language in not human enough for the census is sharp and packs a punch. It’s not hiding hard truths within flowery language, but instead shows the power of the simple written word presenting us with our reality. “make sure you put on some rouge / so at least the disaster / is a beautiful disaster.” Moments like this show Fuhrer framing our situation as a “not if, but when” scenario, but I find a dark comfort in it; I’m grateful someone is so candid and upfront about the trajectory we find ourselves on.
The further into the work we get, the more Androlowicz’s artwork transitions from grounded reality. Slowly shifting from the pea-green sky and vivid blood, we’re whisked into something more striking in its opposition to the environment, before finally settling into surreal images. We see parallel momentum building between the artwork and Fuhrer’s poetry while hope sifts through our fingers as we come to accept our failures.
Sure, we want our individual nature to save the collective, but that’s not necessarily the path we’re on. With a spotlight on the temporality of our bodies, we find a different comfort in the fact that we’re essentially meat sacks that will decompose. When we get down to it, we’re all meant to lie under the soil and become one with the Earth—whether we’ve destroyed it or saved it—and there is a beautiful honesty in embracing that truth.
Publisher: Vegetarian Alcoholic Press
Paperback: 86 pages
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