Forrest Gander

Pulitzer Prize Finalist, National Book Critics Circle Finalist

Reviewed by Ron Silliman for Cutbank

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Forrest Gander and Clark Coolidge are walking arguments for the notion that a young poet would do far better studying geology in college than creative writing. For one thing, it gives one a sense of form that is not at all received from the predictable patterns of previous centuries. For a second, it trains the poet's eye to view the world carefully and not to make assumptions or generalizations. For a third, it offers a wonderful vocabulary, which in turn seems to breed a love for the gaudiest pleasures of diction. Eye Against Eye is crafted masterfully from beginning to end, built around four series of poems interspersed with four prose poems Gander calls "ligatures." The key sequence, "Late Summer Entry: The Landscapes of Sally Mann," illustrates (rather than being illustrated by) ten of her photographs. While Mann's landscapes are misty and impressionistic, quite unlike her photographs of her family, Gander's poetry tends toward the elegant while retaining an ungainly aspect to it-- the only equivalent to it in any art that I can think of might be Twyla Tharp's choreography. I trust the awkwardness here-- which can turn up even in the most shapely pieces-- Gander's concern is always about getting it right, rather than making it fit.