cover image Be With

Be With

Forrest Gander. New Directions, $16.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2605-9

“Life feels life in language,” writes Gander in this searing collection, his first since the Pulitzer Prize–finalist Core Samples from the World. In the depths of grief, Gander conceives of “a realm more real than life./ At which point there was at least some possibility.” Throughout, he traverses literal and figurative boundaries, probing language’s limits in regards to aging, loss, and violence. Among the most moving of Gander’s explorations is that of the space between absence and a presence foregrounded by dementia. In “Ruth,” Gander tenderly witnesses this condition’s effects in and on language: “To listen to each repetition with renewed attentiveness as if it were/ the first occasion, to forget you’ve heard it before and to receive her/ words as her first words or her last ones, for she repeats things not/ only because she’s forgotten but also so they will be remembered.” Violence often cannot be adequately rendered in a single language, as he shows in “Evaporación: A Border History,” with its blend of English and Spanish. “En los dos lados del pavimiento, magnetic sensors/ registran movimiento y dirección. Evening/ cicadas eclipse tree crickets,” he writes. Life, death, and every minor phenomenon in between feels more vivid in Gander’s heartbreaking work: “You who were given a life, what did you make of it?” (Aug.)