BE WITH, BY FORREST GANDER
In his new collection of poetry, Be With, Forrest Gander overflows with vulnerability and brings forth "a eulogy, or a tale of my or your own suffering.” The title, stemming directly from the words of Gander’s life partner, the poet C.D. Wright, who passed away two years ago, tugs at the abyssal rift of a heart mourning over the loss of a loved one. As writing into grief is to write into a deep, raw silence, Be With begins with silence: “It’s not the mirror that is draped, but / what remains unspoken between us.” This silence echoes throughout the book as Gander navigates through a labyrinthine canyon of bereavement, where his “grief-sounds ricocheted outside of language.” Wallace Stevens, an influence of Gander’s, writes that “Death is the mother of beauty,” and Gander does not turn away from grief but dives into its awful and cathartic cascading beauty that wavers between gravity and weightlessness.
As the cover art and caesura within several poems illustrate, “Every event ⏤ drags loss behind it.” The absence manifests itself on the page as words reach and call out to each other across the chasm of white-space. Gander beckons us to cross a bridge to other ranges of his life, such as a handstone, the Mexico–United States border, his mother’s pain and lapses of memory, ultimately arriving at a littoral zone, a series of ecopoetical entrances and exits accompanied by photographs.
Be With serves as a memento mori as Gander asks, “You who were given a life, what did you make of it?” He prompts us to cherish our memories, which return “strangely as fog / Rising just to flatten ⏤ under the bridges.” Although he laments with a tightened throat, his lyrical heavings gush forth an intense beauty that affirms the struggle through life’s deepest hollows. Gander brings to light his efforts of “being with,” his listening into, his resilient conjunction against a fissure shaped by death confirming that there is nothing closer to grief than love.
—Review by Samuel Binns