Forrest Gander

Poet, Novelist, Essayist & Translator
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • The Ethics of Translation
  • Ecological Poetics
  • Border Crossings & Transnational Writing
  • An Evening with Forrest Gander

“A poet with a geology degree, Gander is an envoy between art and science, nature and politics.” —Donna Seaman

“…the quiet complexity of his syntax can build striking abstract landscapes in which the material and spiritual worlds seem equally intelligent.” —Tony Hoagland

“Gander’s [poems] plunge and swoop up and down the whole scale of earthy, earthly, cerebral, and celestial experience. The ride is for the most part thrilling….” —The Boston Book Review

The celebrated Forrest Gander is a poet, translator, essayist, and editor of several anthologies of writing from Spain and Mexico, known for the richness of his language and his undaunted lyric passion. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including collaborations with notable artists and photographers.

Concerned with the way we are revised and translated in encounters with the foreign, his wide-ranging poetry volume Core Samples from the World (2011)—a collaboration studded with the work of three great photographers, Graciela Iturbide, Raymond Meeks, and Lucas Foglia—was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Other poetry collections include Eye Against Eye, with photographs by Sally Mann; Torn Awake; and Science & Steepleflower. He is the author of the essay collection Faithful Existence: Reading, Memory & Transcendence. Other essays have appeared in The Nation, The Boston Review, the New York Times Book Review, and more.

Gander’s two novels are the gemlike debut As A Friend (2008) and The Trace (2014). In As A Friend, he explores the valences of friendship: eroticism, jealousy, emulation, compassion, betrayal, and loyalty. Joanna Scott wrote, “As a Friend is a moving elegy. It is also beautiful proof that language has magical potential. In the hands of the lyrical, insightful Forrest Gander, words express unspeakable secrets, they trace hidden connections between friends and lovers, and they make us aware of the expansive power of the imagination.” The Trace is a poetic novel about a couple journeying through Mexico, recovering from a world shattered when the car breaks down in the middle of the Chihuahua Desert. Jason Diamond calls the novel a “gorgeous portrait of what some people will do to come to grips with tragedy.”

A translator of international renown, Gander’s translations include Fungus Skull Eye Wing: Selected Poems of Alfonso D’Aquino which was longlisted for the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation; Pinholes in the Night: Essential Poems from Latin America (with Raúl Zurita); Watchword, the Villaurrutia Award-winning book by Mexican Poet Laureate Pura Lopez Colome; Spectacle & Pigsty (with Kyoko Yoshida), selected poems by contemporary Japanese poet Kiwao Nomura, which won the Best Translated Book Award for 2012; Firefly Under the Tongue: Selected Poems of Coral Bracho, which was a finalist for the PEN Translation Prize; and (with Kent Johnson) The Night by Jaime Saenz.

In 2008, Gander was named a United States Artists Rockefeller Fellow, one of 50 artists to be recognized for artistic excellence, unique artistic vision, and significant contributions to their fields. Gander is also the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim, Howard, and Whiting Foundations; and he has received two Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry.

With poet C.D. Wright, Gander lives in Rhode Island, where he is professor of English and Comparative Literature at Brown University. He teaches courses on phenomenology and poetics, Asian-American literature, and translation.

Forrest Gander’s website

Forrest Gander is a poet, translator, essayist, and editor of several anthologies of writing from Spain and Mexico. His 2011 poetry collection Core Samples from the World was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other books include two novels, As A Friend and Trace; the poetry collections Eye Against Eye, Torn Awake, Science & Steepleflower; and the essay collection Faithful Existence: Reading, Memory & Transcendence. Gander’s essays have appeared in The Nation, The Boston Review, and the New York Times Book Review, among others. He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim, Howard, and Whiting Foundations, and he has received two Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry.

THE TRACE (Novel, 2014)

“As in his previous works, Gander shows he is keenly aware of the loneliness that imbues human suffering and sets grief alight using beautiful, tense, haunting prose.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The Trace, Forrest Gander’s new masterful, poetic novel about a journey through Mexico, describes a couple recovering from a world shattered. Driving through the vast Chihuahua Desert, they retrace the steps of nineteenth-century American writer Ambrose Bierce, trying to piece together their lives after a devastating incident involving their adolescent son. With tenderness and precision, Gander explores the intimacies of their relationship as they travel through desert towns, through picturesque canyons and desertscapes, on a journey into themselves and through the heart of Mexico. As they take a short-cut through the brutally hot desert home, their car overheats miles from nowhere, the novel spinning out of control, and suddenly there are devastating consequences…

WATCHWORD (Translation, 2012)
In her most recent book, Watchword—the winner of the Villaurrutia, Mexico’s most esteemed literary prize—acclaimed poet Pura Lopez Colome writes of life at its brink with fierce honesty and an unblinking eye. This work shares the darkness, intensity, and skeptical hope of Thomas Hardy’s great poems. Like them, Lopez Colome’s poems have flashes of secular mysticism, sparked from language itself, which generate unforgettable passages and give voice to a world familiar and odd, wounded and buoyant. In the energy and intensity of her work and in her exhilarating words, we discover both a line of conduct and the source for a richer life. This bilingual edition features the poems en face in Spanish and English.


“A compelling work that explores cross-cultural tensions in the world and digs deeply to identify what is essential in human experience.” — Pulitzer citation

Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Critics Circle Award, this is a gorgeous, wide-ranging volume of poetry and essays by Forrest Gander, studded with the work of three great photographers. Gander’s eloquent new work voices an ethical concern for others, exploring empathic relations in which the world itself is fundamental. Taking us around the globe to China, Mexico, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Chile, Core Samples shows how Gander’s “sharp sense of place has made him the most earthly of our avant-garde, the best geographer of fleshly sites since Olson.” —Donald Revell

AS A FRIEND (Novel, 2008)

“There is such honesty in this book—its purpose, its language, its feeling. It offers a way, as Les puts it, ‘to approach each other and the world with as much vulnerability as we can possibly sustain.’” —Jeanette Winterston 

“Heroism is a secondary virtue,” Albert Camus noted, “but friendship is primary.” In his gemlike first novel, Forrest Gander writes of friendship, envy, and eros as a harmonic of charged overtones. Set in a rural southern landscape as vivid as its indelible characters, a friend tells the story of Les, a gifted man and land surveyor, whose impact on those around him provokes intense self-examination and an atmosphere of dangerous eroticism. With poetic insight, Gander explores the nature of attraction, betrayal, and loyalty. What he achieves is brilliant in style and powerfully unsettling.

Born in 1951 in Mexico City, Coral Bracho has published seven books, including the groundbreaking El ser que va a morir (1982), which changed the course of Mexican poetry. The prominent Mexican poet David Heurta wrote: “The secret of Coral Bracho’s poetry, its prodigious originality, can be traced to its tendency to surge like a living voice, a silky impetuous torrent.” Coral Bracho’s poems explore the sensual realm where logic is disbanded, wonder evoked. Containing poems from all her groundbreaking collections in Spanish, Firefly under the Tongue is the first book in English by this most important and influential living poet.

A Faithful Existence is a thrilling, lyrical exploration of what it means to be faithful in the act of translation, in scientific and spiritual inquiry, in philosophies of perception, in friendship, and in poetry. Sensual, erudite, and operatic in scope, these essays pay homage to the landscape of the American South, to snapping turtles and anti-particles, to iconoclastic physicists and writers from various countries and epochs, to visionary poets and to poetic hoaxes.

Forrest Gander pops the hood of the standard-issue essay and hotwires it for the twenty-first century, re-tuning compelling associations and vivid bursts of insight into the quality of immediate experience. He connects with an ethical vision, a bodily consciousness, and a mode of language that might help us to survive the streams of data, the discombobulating media, and the predatory march of “information” that defines our age.

Click link to read essay by Forrest Gander:
The Future of the Past: the Carboniferous & Ecological Poetics


As if iteration
might introduce us
to a sensation
not limited to sameness.
Which is when
the branchiomandibular
muscles contract
forcing forward the hyoid bones
in their sheath so
the woodpecker’s
long tongue, forked
at the base of its throat and
wrapped over the top of its head
and around the eye socket,
squirts through the drill hole
into a gallery of
insects within
the dead cactus.

* * *

You have the eyes of —.
I was speaking to the bird on the low branch.
De donde viene?

Grace’s warbler—he’s little
but he pishes-in real well.

Had I just translated Siento que mi fatiga se fatiga as
My get up and go done got up and gone?
Something my mother used to say.
Then fell asleep for twenty minutes on a bench
in the zócalo and woke refreshed. As
though a door had been left open
from last night’s bad sleep
and it was sufficient to return only
long enough to close it.

Came-to with a memory of lying
in your lap as you stroked my ears.
Bewilderingly sexual.

Grackle ruckus covers bootblack brush, organ
grinder cuts grackle ruckus.

—from Core Samples from the World

THE TRACE (novel excerpt)
La Esmeralda, Mexico 

She knocked on the bathroom door.

‘Can I come in to shower?’

‘En el trono,’ he called out. ‘Give me a couple minutes.’

He was just reaching for the roll of toilet paper on the floor when something happened. A reverberating collision and a seasick feeling at once. The toilet quivered under his thighs as the walls rattled and the front door—it must be the front door—cracked, splintering as though a tree had crashed through it, but there were no trees in the yard. He began to rise from the toilet into something awful, into a new sound, into the rising decibels of the woman screaming from the living room. Bent over still reaching for his pants, he knew there would not be enough time to pull them up. He was aware of every facet of the bathroom then, as though he had been studying it for escape routes for months. The canary-yellow plastic curtain drawn halfway across the tub. The rusted showerhead releasing its slow, incurable drip. The colourless bath mat with its frayed, dirty edge folded up. The dingy rattan clothes hamper. The stale towel hanging from a nail in the door. And to his right, above the sink, a red hand towel limp on its clear plastic ring over the soap dish. The sink was set in a water-warped cabinet with a louvred door.

A FAITHFUL EXISTENCE (essay excerpt)

Neither Jewish, Christian, nor Buddhist, when I write I am cloistered, nevertheless, in my own imagination. The basic gesture of my writing is a listening. Perhaps this attitude resembles that of the religious. But my credal source is worldly. Faith, for me, derives from the most common revelations. What is stands suddenly more revealed. Yet, like Edmund Jabés, I have found no Truth but truths and interrogative, no reality but feeling and interpretation.

We shall all be changed, the Bible promises, though for most of us it is momentary. Love unseats us, but we thread ourselves slowly back into the dull wood of our egos. It is hard to sustain a constant awe, as Lao Tzu importuned, and so tragedy befalls us. We fail to construct a lifelong state of wonder. And yet artistic and spiritual endeavors inspire our efforts to do so, as though the efforts themselves were all important.

. . . .

Poetry can be an ecstasy of words spindling perceptions. The meaningful dialogue between the poem and the reader is as much a sacred manifestation as I hope to encounter.

AS A FRIEND (novel excerpt)

It’s a barren feeling to know at the age of twenty-five that you’ve already lived the most intense period of your life, that a vividness has blazed up and short-circuited something in you and you will remember what it felt like to be alive but not feel it again, and you won’t even want to remember, can’t bear it, it’s too ploughed with guilt and pain. It seemed all of a sudden like a wind had slacked off and I was left leaning off-balance in a world something considerable had passed through. Once I had choices. Then it was as if my life leaped out of my body.