“Book Review: in which i take myself hostage”
Reviewed by Joseph Haeger
Another gorgeous book of poetry from Erik Fuhrer exploring where we fit in with nature
Erik Fuhrer’s book of poetry not human enough for the census was about finding the balance between being a part of Earth while using its resources for our own survival (and, of course, greed).
His new poetry collection, in which I take myself hostage follows the same themes, exploring our relationship with nature. But this time, it’s about how we’re affected by our surroundings as opposed to how we alter them. It begins with absorbing everything the world has to offer, but the bad outweighs the good, so we rot from taking it in. The moment that elevates this idea is that even once the experience and knowledge is collected (and subsequently ruined), it’s then offered up to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
One theme I’m particularly taken with is related to how we commodify our most basic parts. The speaker in in which I take myself hostage begins using their teeth as touchscreens, with the intention of becoming more marketable. Doing so allows them to adapt to what other people want to say. Rather than being the mouthpiece for truth, they get filtered and reordered into what other people want to hear. They alter their life to meet a want opposed to meeting a need.
This collection, like the last one, includes paintings by Kimberly Androlowicz. These new pieces employ hard edges on different bold shapes. The images are arresting with their high contrast and vivid colors that combat open white space—showing an almost tug of war between our natural purpose on Earth versus what people want us to be.
One of the later paintings shows a piece that has been painted over with a light gray color, symbolizing a losing battle, like she didn’t quite hit the mark, so the only thing left to do was whitewash the whole piece of art. That, in itself, is a powerful message. Then, there’s a couple paintings toward the end of the collection that find a harmony between the colors. These feel unified, like an agreement has been made between these two conflicting factions Fuhrer is diving into throughout the book.
These poems are a cycle—a push and pull against our reality and the nature we inhabit. Oftentimes those two existences are at odds, and Fuhrer tries to contextualize the differences in hopes that he can come to a satisfying solution, but in the end this struggle is just our natural order.
“houdini died / from a punch / to the stomach / I died / from breath ing you in / all these years / now when you return / you will / have to / breathe / me / in / I will spore you / and we will / again / be together”
The language is rich and textured, bringing us into the folds of Fuhrer’s thought process. Including his text here—I feel—almost does a disservice to Fuhrer’s poetry because I fail to recreate the form of his poems. The structure he uses is to space the words out across the page, making our eyes dart here and there, further creating an air and space for us to fully consider his explorations.
There’s a highlight when the collection goes into the titular theme of taking himself hostage. The speaker’s body becomes this dark place that is difficult to navigate. People are still trying to use his body for their own intentions, but it’s effectively useless to them. The speaker still believes their body is worthy of some good, so they start to bite it in an attempt to break it open so light can once again shine through them.
Like not human enough for the census, this new book feels cynical while cracking open the different ideas woven into it, but at the end, the core message is revealed to be one of optimism. The world may be chock-full of corruption that’s bound to chip away at our physical and mental well-being, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bite, rip, and hope for a newly born light that will bring better days.
Erik Fuhrer does this amazing trick where he reflects my deepest and darkest assumptions about the world—effectively validating them—but then makes a slight turn, giving me the will to wish for something more. Something better. And that, when you boil it all down, is exactly what poetry is here for.
Publisher: Spuyten Duyvil Publishing
Print Length: 102 pages
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