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“Taking Liberties we aren’t Comfortable With: A Review of Jennifer H. Fortin’s We Lack in Equipment & Control

March 3, 2016 - Poetry, Reviews
Author: Jennifer H. Fortin
Publisher: H_NGM_N BKS
“Taking Liberties we aren’t Comfortable With: A Review of Jennifer H. Fortin’s We Lack in Equipment & Control

Jennifer H. Fortin tends to write in confined spaces that bleed over into each other. She explores life as a construct broken and tends to the discrepancies in the emotional manual “We Lack in Equipment & Control”, a title I was immediately drawn to as a description of myself. Opening the first title page I could hear the bold letters drop and accumulate command and urgency, an advisory warning. The book is organized into two parts, part one “Of Environmental Concern” lays down the blueprint of a specific balmy February drawn by weather (usually snow), a tricky relationship between you and I, and a whirlwind of experiences that range from the workplace to sleeping through important phone calls. Part two, “That Which Just Gets Tired & Then Kind” elaborates on the image of an unbroken horse. This green, unbroken, untrained, fresh horse is sometimes being ridden, sometimes being turned into the speaker, sometimes we all collectively own the horse. As the title suggests, Fortin defines space as what it isn’t and then argues what it is.
Utilizing a form I could only describe as informational, some poems tending to look like captions or articles without illustration others frantic across pages searching, Fortin explores the idea of “states” as things we inhabit and things we are and aren’t. Her language does not waste any time, as her phrases tend to be punchy however not without twists. She tends to fasten herself to statements and conclusions that are “pointed” while also being aware of what is “omitted.” Take for example this excerpt from “There are ten suns”:

The moon should arrive all
at once, allegiance to tablature
some fastidious person bothered
to diagram. What evening force
there’s no saying. It could be
the score of a green fireball
tearing open the sky. Chaos
& crowding are certain.

Fortin admits herself to an unknown space without hesitance, however she also makes claims and maintains a tone that is rather instructional sometimes reading like a dictionary entry. This does not compromise the emotion in her work. On the contrary, when reading Fortin I feel as though she has painted me a different person and now narrates my life, relaying as the architect a new world with ten suns, a guide titled Get Help In Over 50 Languages, a live chat with my meteorologists about venues, and moments where I cry in my car alone. These details, although many and short, breathe life into a rolling narrative about self and behaviors intimate and social. When I bought this book I was told that she had written this on the subway over the course of a tumultuous relationship. She very well may have, however her book also spans the universal, the experience of inexperience and learning to build “a new body.” Using her own words, she definitely does “snow a giant detail.”
In speaking about Fortin’s “We Lack in Equipment & Control” I cannot forget the snow how it is “my problem” and it is untamed. I find myself reiterating again and again; I am so “green” and “we are definitely february,” so where are the “trained specialists?”

Reviewed by: Gabriella Garcia

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