An exciting new book about renewal by the winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
In the searing poems of his new collection, Twice Alive, the Pulitzer Prize–winner Forrest Gander addresses the exigencies of our historical moment and the intimacies, personal and environmental, that bind us to others and to the world. Drawing from his training in geology and his immersion in Sangam literary traditions, Gander invests these poems with an emotional intensity that illuminates our deep-tangled interrelations.
While conducting fieldwork with a celebrated mycologist, Gander links human intimacy with the transformative collaborations between species that compose lichens. Throughout Twice Alive, Gander addresses personal and ecological trauma—several poems focus on the devastation wrought by wildfires in California where he lives—but his tone is overwhelmingly celebratory. Twice Alive is a book charged with exultation and tenderness.
Gander's resonant 15th collection (after Be With) vibrates with the thrill that comes with being open with another person. There are several poems titled "Sangam Acoustics" (sangam being "a gathering of individuals united in spirit"); aubades; a series titled "The Redwoods," in which slashes and words mimic the shapes of cross-sections of the trees (photographs of which are on facing pages); and several entries in which phrases are separated by bolded bullets. Gander's startlingly fresh observations ("the white-tufted foreheads/ of waves" and "the path riffled/by creamy edible morels and// poisonous false morels") counter a voice that says, "Don't be so/ rational." Moments of revelation ("I am here never to be peeled away"; "our identity... is combinatory") reenforce Gander's interest in the creation of new beings and in all living things. The book's meticulous structure, with its repetition of forms, allows the theme of rebirth ("as I find you within me not fused, not/ bonded, but nested") to resonate in references to lichen, sangam, and sexual coupling. This is an ecologically aware, tender, and captivating work.