WINNER OF THE 2019 PULITZER PRIZE IN POETRY
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2018 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
Publishers Weekly Best Poetry Book of 2018
Forrest Gander’s first book of poems since his Pulitzer finalist Core Samples from the World: a startling look through loss, grief, and regret into the exquisite nature of intimacy
Drawing from his experience as a translator, Forrest Gander includes in the first, powerfully elegiac section a version of a poem by the Spanish mystical poet St. John of the Cross. He continues with a long multilingual poem examining the syncretic geological and cultural history of the U.S. border with Mexico. The poems of the third section—a moving transcription of Gander’s efforts to address his mother dying of Alzheimer’s—rise from the page like hymns, transforming slowly from reverence to revelation. Gander has been called one of our most formally restless poets, and these new poems express a characteristically tensile energy and, as one critic noted, “the most eclectic diction since Hart Crane.”
"Life feels life in language," writes Gander in this searing collection, his first since the Pulitzer Prize finalist Core Samples from the World. In the depths of grief, Gander conceives of "a realm more real than life./ At which point there was at least some possibility." Throughout, he traverses literal and figurative boundaries, probing language's limits in regards to aging, loss, and violence. Among the most moving of Gander's explorations is that of the space between absence and a presence foregrounded by dementia. In "Ruth," Gander tenderly witnesses this condition's effects in and on language: "To listen to each repetition with renewed attentiveness as if it were/ the first occasion, to forget you've heard it before and to receive her/ words as her first words or her last ones, for she repeats things not/ only because she's forgotten but also so they will be remembered." Violence often cannot be adequately rendered in a single language, as he shows in "Evaporaci n: A Border History," with its blend of English and Spanish. "En los dos lados del pavimiento, magnetic sensors/ registran movimiento y direcci n. Evening/ cicadas eclipse tree crickets," he writes. Life, death, and every minor phenomenon in between feels more vivid in Gander's heartbreaking work: "You who were given a life, what did you make of it?"