gander

Forrest Gander

Poet, Novelist, Essayist & Translator
Pulitzer Prize and NBCCA Finalist

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • The Ethics of Translation
  • Ecological Poetics
  • Border Crossings & Transnational Writing


“Forrest Gander is a Southern poet of a relatively hard kind, a restlessly experimental writer….Be ready for a ride.”-Robert Hass

“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.” -Joanna Scott

“What really haunts Gander, who is a translator as well as a poet, isn’t so much death as the complexities of life: the frequently unknown stories that lie beneath and within the stories we tell.” -Washington Post

With an “unflinchingly curious mind,” celebrated poet Forrest Gander has become known for the richness of his language and his undaunted lyric passion. A translator, essayist, and the editor of two anthologies of Mexican poetry, Gander is the author of more than a dozen books, including collaborations with notable artists and photographers. His 2011 poetry collection Core Samples from the World (New Directions)-a collaboration with the photographers Graciela Iturbide, Raymond Meeks, and Lucas Foglia-was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other books include his gemlike first novel As A Friend (2008) and The Trace (2014); the poetry collections Eye Against Eye (with photographs by Sally Mann); Torn Awake; Science & Steepleflower; and the essay collection Faithful Existence: Reading, Memory & Transcendence.

Gander’s translations include Fungus Skull Eye Wing: Selected Poems of Alfonso D’Aquino (Copper Canyon, 2014), longlisted for the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation; Pinholes in the Night: Essential Poems from Latin America, translated with Raúl ZuritaWatchword, the Villaurrutia Award-winning book by Mexican Poet Laureate Pura Lopez Colome (Wesleyan, 2012); Spectacle & Pigsty, a co-translation with Kyoko Yoshida of selected poems by contemporary Japanese poet Kiwao Nomura (OmniDawn Press, 2011), which won the Best Translated Book Award for 2012; Firefly Under the Tongue: Selected Poems of Coral Bracho (2008), which was a finalist for the PEN Translation Prize; and, with Kent Johnson, The Night by Jaime Saenz. Gander’s essays have appeared in The Nation, The Boston Review, and American Poetry Review, among others.

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, translatory, essayist, and editor of two anthologies of Mexican poetry. 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 his first novel, As A Friend; 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 American Poetry 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)
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.

CORE SAMPLES FROM THE WORLD (Poetry, 2011)
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. Core Samples from the World is a magnificent compendium of poetry, photography, and essay (a form of Japanese haibun). Collaborating with three acclaimed photographers, Gander explores tensions between the familiar and foreign. His 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)
“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.

FIREFLY UNDER THE TONGUE: SELECTED POEMS OF CAROL BRACHO (Translation, 2008)
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 (Essays, 2005)
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.


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.

LIGATURE 5

-For Valerie Mejer

It’s not an insult to refuse to drain the glass, she tells me
And a fly crawls from the bowl of sauza picante.

Would you choose to bury the organs with the child?
And he retreats to his room and closes the door.

Here, birds in the zocalo whiz and tweet like children’s toys
And there, a charred corpse hanging from the bridge.

From the seat behind, he pokes her head with a plastic fork
And getting no response, tests it on his own head.

Would you turn the damn wipers off, the attendant asks
And the odor of manure and wet hay hits us.

A kind of mystery gloms to those who have suffered deeply
And thank you Mr. and Mrs. Radiance.

It sounded like the chimmuck of a rock dropped into a stream
And the piston-driven breathing of sex.

The couple at the bus station-when had we kissed like that?
And Nice evening-Yes it is -A bit skunky- That’s for sure.

Terrorist and victim circling the last chair as the music stops
And the valves of their mouths snapping open and shut.

When I rise out of myself into occasion, I said
And when do you rise out of yourself into occasion, she asked.

Late enough to count maple loopers and geometrids at the window
And the boy will be coming up the porch steps when he comes.

The long row of treadmills choiring
And above them, televisions replay the disaster.

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