Review by Jen Lambert
What’s the word for when you’ve been doing something your whole life, like, let’s say walking, and suddenly you become so very aware of how you do it, maybe you put more weight on your left foot or you land on the balls of your feet just so, and now that you know this, you can never, ever walk the same way again? Now, the way you move is altered, and you can feel it with every step you take. What is the word for what this walking has become? This book is full of this word.
Pattern Exhaustion, by Nate Pritts, is everything I fear, the collapse of what I know and expect and the period after, the fumbling, the tripping through, until the new becomes the known. Maybe it’s everything we all fear: a brokenness, an unraveling of the familiar. Pattern Exhaustion is a manifesto on how to learn to be human when you are already human, or maybe it’s a lesson on the recovery of being too human, a nervous breakdown of the mind and the heart, the softening of everything we know until we don’t even recognize our own bodies, until we are empty, until we ask “how do I love when there is no one there?”
“I see so many new people
I didn’t even know existed.”
The chapbook itself is one long unraveling. A single poem broken between 32 pages, white space, long pauses, staggered lines. “We live in a terrible season,” the epigraph proclaims, and the book embodies this perfectly. It’s full of winter and cold, mechanical images of isolation, and a deep loss. The speaker breaks my heart over and over with a quiet voice, an empty assuredness, a mimicking of simple human acts. It’s so honest, so tender, and so damn lonely.
I know the place the speaker lives. We all know it. This is the place where we lose our grip, forget our own pattern or maybe we just forget how to live without it, and then wonder, how do we go on?
This book might be the only thing that we can hold on to while we navigate the void between then and now. The speaker asks “how can I pay attention/when so many things are happening/when all I want is a new language” and I think the answers are in this book. It’s a bleak token, a call to take notice. It is exhausting to imagine a patternless life, a breakdown of the thing that connects us to ground. Pattern Exhaustion is a reminder of where we are headed. It’s like gravity in a world where we all keep floating away from one another.
Jen Lambert is a writer and editor living in Omaha.