Skip to content

Poet of the Week: Forrest Gander

Due to popular demand, and as a concession to common sense, we’ve decided to put poems here on our website — one poet per week.

This week, we present Forrest Gander. Following in the footsteps of many New Directions poets, Forrest is a Renaissance man with degrees in geology and literature. He’s written novels, poetry, and criticism, and has translated, as well. His most recent collection, Core Samples from the World, has been named a finalist for the 2012 NBCC Award in Poetry. 

The collection is a collaboration with three photographers that travels the globe exploring the tension between the foreign and the familiar, and what emerges is an empathetic portrait of the world’s fundamental nature. To give you an idea of the unique structure Gander has created for the mixture of poetry and short essays, as well as the scope of landscapes, here’s the table of contents:

A Clearing With photos by Raymond Meeks
Xinjiang: The Pamirs Poetry Journey

Tinajera Notebook With photos by Graciela Iturbide
Mexico: A Core Sample through 24 Hours

Moving Around for the Light, A Madrigal With photos by Lucas Foglia
Bosnia-Herzegovina: Life is Waiting

Lovegreen With photos by Raymond Meeks
Chile: Pigs of Gold

*   *   *

Below are three poems, two from the second section, and one from the fourth. Enjoy.

*   *   *

Evaporation 2

In increments enunciated (Oh) within
             where the meanings (in increments) lie
bare (she says) (Oh, to her friend)

             who is watching (I am watching) a cat slink
(while we walk) keeping pace with us
             through the fenestrated walls (adobe) of

a ruined house (Oh, this finger) in the village
             where she grew up (her accent
makes clear) This finger, she says,

             delighted, holding it up,
has a heart in it! (Pulse)
             And thinking I don’t see (the friend), she

takes (from her purse) a toothpaste tube
             (purse open) as she walks (we walk)
(where’s the cat?) along the soft

             path between (adobe) walls,
squeezes toothpaste
             on her finger (with its heart) and smears

it (looking away) against her upper
             and (still looking away) lower teeth
then touches me (with her breath)


*   *   *

from "The Tinajera Notebook"

So the present
hoses itself out. And with it—

Sitting in the lobby of the clinic,
its walls painted
like children’s rooms with starfish

and trains and jungle birds
and the children shuttling back and forth, the nurse
calling their name and a few words

in English or Spanish, the children
taking their mother’s
or father’s hand,

trailing the nurse past
a registration desk, down
the hall, the sequence of closed doors,

toward the one door open. Radiance inside. Bald
children wearing hats, and a bald baby in a mother’s arms, and
here in the lobby, where I wait for you

to be X-rayed,
some stranger whose exhaustion
can’t be fathomed, begins to snore. If this

is the world and its time, as irrevocably it is,
when I step out into sunlit air
suffused with sausage smoke and bus exhaust,

with its relentless ads
for liquor and underwear,
where am I then?


*   *   *

from "Lovegreen"

                             That the trunk, submerged in air,
whirling leaves, thresholds-out. On the bark of
                                                        its leader stem, a black-capped
                              chickadee pins caterpillars and lacewings.
           Its water-sprouts and spurs unpruned,
                                       unbraced, the Yellow Transparent tree’s
boughs release the girl open-mouthed
                                             pumping her two-wheeler
                                                         across a meadow softly-furred
                              as a bumble bee, her plastic bag
              pendant with hard apples
                                                                            from one handlebar swaying—

                                     Coffee cut with honeysuckle.
                         The unprimed pump won’t give up its water.
                      Mosquito hawk clings to the barn wall’s shadow.

*   *   *

If you happen to be in New York on March 7, the NBCC finalists reading is free and open to the public, and Forrest will be there. All of the details are here.