cover image Deeds of Utmost Kindness

Deeds of Utmost Kindness

Forrest Gander. Wesleyan University Press, $13.95 (86pp) ISBN 978-0-8195-1212-3

Gander's ( Lynchburg ) third collection contains six long poem sequences tied loosely together by a theme of journeying (Russia, Japan, the Ozarks) or exploring from a stagnant place (rocks, landscape). Whether in a portrait of someone being hit by cars while working on the highway or a country boy driving his pickup, there is an inbred (and often haunting) spirituality. The Japan sequence, for example, includes a description of one Buddha surrounded by thousands of smaller statues, ``each placed by a woman whose child was stillborn, or aborted, or wounded fatally in birth.'' In the book's most ambitious sequence, a friend about to die creates a catalogue of everything he'll bring along on his journey. Intrigued by ``the sudden appearance / of the commonplace,'' the poet also tosses off images such as birds ``gargling from a puddle.'' Again and again this traveler's eye comes to rest on a woman, describing her with a sensual desire partially for her, partially for a woman at home. The tricky typography of many pages creates a shallow surface for writing that is far from superficial, yet when emotion overpowers him, this poet has no time for facile eye-hand line coordination. (Feb.)