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Be With (Paperback)

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I came to poetry by way of a couple poets whose work I could not stop thinking about. Like songs getting stuck in your head, I had poems which I would say out loud to myself for no real reason. I still do this. I’m glad I still do this. One early poem I could not shake was the late C.D. Wright’s “More Blues and the Abstract Truth.” I had a recording of Wright reading it and the lilt in her voice punctuated perfectly what the piece suggested. It’s worth listening to. She became one of my favorite poets, a true experimenter. She made me feel like poetry could expand as far as you let it, that some poems can go on and on with no need to wrap up with some cute epiphany. I remember reaching out to her on Facebook and got a short reply back that sent me spinning. I had contact with a true hero, even if only digitally. Of course, her unexpected death was absolutely heartbreaking. It was a week after David Bowie’s and they had both just released new work and were the same age. It was perplexing. It was sad. It’s difficult to accept there would be no new work after her last collection. Though this sentiment is not new, it was the first time I really had to contend with it.

Just this week, her husband Forrest Gander (whom she taught alongside with at Brown) released a new collection of poems following his 2011 Pulitzer Finalist CORE SAMPLES OF THE WORLD, entitled BE WITH. Out from New Directions, BE WITH takes on grief as its subject, an elegy of sorts to his late wife as well as his mother’s struggle with Alzheimer's. I couldn’t help but want to see if C.D. was a blatant subject in his new work, and although that was my original intention when wanting to read this collection, I came away from it thoroughly impressed by Gander’s own poetic strength. Consider the opening lines of an early poem “Beckoned” which uses the anaphora “At which point…” throughout, almost like a meditation: “At which point my grief-sounds ricocheted outside of language. / Something like a drifting swarm of bees.” And later describing his wife: “At which point her voice was pinned to the backdrop of vaporous color.” Gander is spectacular at an almost sci-fi description of the grief world, an otherworldly landscape he creates by reimagining language as something tactile. I could really feel the use of language as the medium in these collections, which seems obvious to say about poetry using language as the medium, but there is something truly to be experienced by Gander’s poems that other poems don’t have: a three-dimensionality. I feel this way about few poets, where you can “feel” the typing in the work. These poems are constructed with pure intent; nothing is out of place or frivolous.

BE WITH also has an eerie quiet that reminds me of Jean Valentine’s collection BREAK THE GLASS, especially in this line from “What It Sounds Like”: “You who were given a life, what did you make of it?” It’s a question you feel Gander is trying to sort out throughout the collection. The book is shot through with this reflective quality, a meandering in mortality. Perhaps this is most apparent in the sequences “Tell Them No” and “Ruth.” The section “Ruth” explores his mother’s deterioration from Alzheimer’s, containing this line: “She’s lost / my name, but the / occasion of my / presence begs / more. Who is my / mother now I am / unspoken for?” Gander shows us the difficulty of living a life after those closest to you, anchoring you to the world, are gone. Is it possible to start again? These poems give voice to someone trying. Although these poems can be difficult in structure and subject, BE WITH is one of the strongest collections of poetry to come out this year and one you ought to invest in.

— From A Loss That Every Loss Fits Inside: Thoughts on Forrest Gander’s BE WITH

Description


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.”

About the Author


Forrest Gander was born in the Mojave Desert and grew up in Virginia. In addition to writing poetry, he has translated works by Coral Bracho, Alfonso D’Aquino, Pura Lopez-Colome, Pablo Neruda, and Jaime Saenz. The recipient of grants from the Library of Congress, the Guggenheim, Howard, Whiting, and United States Artists Foundations, he taught for many years as the AK Seaver Professor of Literary Arts & Comparative Literature at Brown University.

Praise For…


Gander’s verses have a shattering, symphonic quality, but he uses poetry to locate and dislocate at once, pushing against the borders of meaning or pitching his camp where language estranges itself from sense. There are dazzling fragments, unraveling syntax, poems that, in their ghostliness, also force us to be alert to our own fragile lives.
— Tess Taylor

Be With charts the addled chronology of personal loss. Poetry often creates a supernatural-seeming rapport with the dead, but rarely has the communication between worlds felt so eerily reciprocal.

— Dan Chiasson

Life, death, and every minor phenomenon in between feels more vivid in Gander’s heartbreaking work.
— Be with

Utterly naked and bereft, elegies, apologies, could-have-beens, Gander grieves and wonders about what's left in his life. Reading this book may hurt, but it will help people to keep living through what they thought they could never survive.
— Craig Morgan Teicher

If Gander’s philosophical strain and flamboyant lingo suggest Wallace Stevens, and his conversance with science and his stress on the ‘ongoing’ recall A. R. Ammons, he insinuates a knotty, digressive intensity that is fully his own.

A complex reading experience punctuated by intense beauty.

Gander’s love for formal, even archaic language and the quiet complexity of his syntax can build striking abstract landscapes in which the material and spiritual worlds seem equally intelligent.

Written in the wake of this loss, Be With breaks form to render Gander’s own brokenness, leaving gaps in the middle of lines and channeling St. John of the Cross. Gander explores his own dark night of the soul—and, as a poet particularly concerned with ecology, the dark night of our natural world.

— Anthony Domestico

Gander does not turn away from grief but dives into its awful and cathartic cascading beauty that wavers between gravity and weightlessness.


Product Details
ISBN: 9780811226059
ISBN-10: 0811226050
Publisher: New Directions
Publication Date: August 28th, 2018
Pages: 80
Language: English