Forrest Gander

2019 Pulitzer Prize

A Faithful Existence, reviewed by Tom Arnold for Longhouse Poetry

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A Faithful Existence is a very big book at less than 150 pages, and you will want to crawl through it as you suck up smart stuff, southern legacy, poetics via geology, and pristine homages to the likes of Henry Dumas, Besmilr Brigham, George Scarbrough, Araki Yasusada, Vic Chesnutt, and I know Creeley and Oppen and Laura Riding are hiding in there because I've snuck ahead, but I don't dare read out of turn. Gander has enough mysterious science about his way of writing that you don't want to veer off course, in case you miss something. I absolutely honor any writer who refrains such quotes as the one above regarding Mary Austin and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and then goes ahead and puts that same rail-splitting grain into his own abilities. Just try this paragraph on for size-- it's better than whole books written by poets about themselves:

"If not a writer, then I would probably be a geologist. I majored in geology, was heading to graduate school in paleontology, and the doe-eyed dark angel touched my shoulder with a finger and the doctor said, third stage melanoma, let's go. In no time, I'd lost my spleen, a line of lymph nodes, a bear's mouthful of flesh and muscle over my shoulder blade, and a rectangle of skin, about the size of a City Lights paperback, that had been stripped for use as a graft. Lying in the hospital, nothing but words in my head, I began to imagine another way to love the earth, and to find something to stand on."

In a tie of the poet's cry, 'Me Me Me!' and shocking waste, the marvel of this book is just what the author kept out, and then put back in. One of the star throwers.