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Gander, Forrest 1956-

Gander, Forrest 1956-

PERSONAL: Born January 21, 1956, in Barstow, CA; son of James Forrest Cockerille, Jr. (a bar owner) and Ruth Clare Caulsen (a teacher); married C.D. Wright (a poet), 1983; children: Brecht Wright. Education: College of William and Mary, B.S. and B.A.; San Francisco State University, M.A.

ADDRESSES: Home—351 Nayatt Rd., Barrington, RI 02806-4336.

CAREER: Providence College, Providence, RI, associate professor, beginning 1985; Brown University, Providence, professor of English and comparative literature, 1999–.

AWARDS, HONORS: National Endowment for the Arts fellowships in poetry, 1989, 2001; Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative North American Poetry, 1993, 1997; Whiting Writers Award, 1997; Pushcart Prize, 2000; Howard Foundation Award, 2005.

WRITINGS:

Rush to the Lake (poetry), Alice James Books (Cambridge, MA), 1988.

Eggplants and Lotus Root (poetry), Burning Deck (Providence, RI), 1991.

(With Carmen Boullosa) Poetry and Translation, Wayland Collegium, Brown University (Providence, RI), 1992.

Lynchburg (poetry), University of Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1993.

(Editor) Mouth to Mouth: Poems by Twelve Contemporary Mexican Women, Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 1993.

Deeds of Utmost Kindness (poetry), University Press of New England (Hanover, NH), 1994.

Science and Steepleflower (poetry), New Directions (New York, NY), 1998.

Torn Awake (poetry), New Directions (New York, NY), 2001.

(Translator) No Shelter: The Selected Poems of Pura López-Colomé, Graywolf Press (St. Paul, MN), 2002.

(Translator, with Kent Johnson) Immanent Visitor: Selected Poems of Jaime Sáenz, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2002.

The Blue Rock Collection (poetry), Shoemaker & Hoard (Washington, DC), 2004.

Eye against Eye (poetry), New Directions (New York, NY), 2005.

A Faithful Existence: Reading, Memory, and Transcendence (essays), Shoemaker & Hoard (Washington, DC), 2005.

(Editor of translation) Connecting Lines: New Poetry from Mexico, edited and prefaced by Luis Cortés Bargalló, introduction by Hernan Lara Zavala, Sarabande Books (Louisville, KY), 2006.

(Translator, with Kent Johnson) The Night: A Poem by Jaime Sáenz, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS: Forrest Gander once told CA: "Along with my two younger sisters, I was brought up in Virginia by my mother, an ebullient, dedicated school teacher. She delighted in reading to me Edgar Allan Poe and Carl Sandburg, and she translated her love of the natural world into a remarkable tolerance (considering that all four of us lived in a two-bedroom apartment) for my childhood menageries of leeches, snakes, salamanders, turtles, and rodents. My father, James Forrest Cockerille, Jr., owned a bar called the Mod Scene in Greenwich Village, and my sisters and I sometimes spent summers with him. In 1972, when I was a high school sophomore, a handsome, morally exemplary banker, Walter J. Gander, asked for my mother's hand and we were all adopted into his family of two boys.

"It wasn't until I was in college that someone (Professor Donald Jenkins) kindly told me that my poems were not good. Although I was majoring in geology, I took enough courses to double major in English. Among them, workshops with Peter Klappert exposed me to an ardent poet who encouraged me to expand and intensify my poetry reading habits.

"In 1979, by chance, my mother found a lump on my right scapula that turned out to be a third-stage melanoma. I had already lost my spleen, appendix, tonsils, and adenoids, and had been operated on for a hernia. I would later lose lymph nodes around my groin. During this last major surgery in the hospital, a deep seriousness visited upon me, and I determined that, abandoning a career in geology, I would devote myself to poetry.

"To get as far away from those regional influences with which I was already familiar, and because I could afford graduate school in the state of my birth, I went to San Francisco where the Language Poets were holding forth at 80 Langton Street and where there were poetry readings and arguments in cafes around the city every night.

"It was a fabulous, heady time. While I worked in a methadone clinic, I lived in a breathtaking apartment on Potrero Hill overlooking the Mission district, and I spent as many hours as I could exploring the Marin headlands. I met C.D. Wright in the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University, where I was systematically reading through the library, and eventually I apprenticed myself to Lost Road Publishers, the book press she edited. With money we both saved, we decided somewhat capriciously to move to Mexico and to publish a series of Lost Road books from there. "In Mexico I began to write my first good poems. I also began a correspondence with writers there that formed the foundation for my anthology Mouth to Mouth: Poems by Twelve Contemporary Mexican Women.

"My own first book, Rush to the Lake, was published by Alice James Books in 1988. The central long poem of that collection, 'Sumo,' developed from notes and photographs I had taken on a trip to Japan during the sumo training season. This poem became the first in a series of long poems that I began to write. Looking at a single subject for an extended time, I found the long poem prodded me to develop innovative formal strategies. To keep the poem from repeating itself, I had to approach the material from various angles in different, but generative forms.

"In 1991, my long poem, Eggplants and Lotus Root, was published by Burning Deck. In this book, designed by Rosemarie Waldrop and Pam Rehm, I intended to acknowledge three primary spheres of influence on our species: sexuality, aesthetics, and violence. And I wanted to exercise distinctive forms of consciousness, separating out the emotive, the descriptive, and the meditative, and weaving these three strands horizontally across the poem to suggest a three-dimensional space for desire and loss. Eggplants and Lotus Root was, in part, a response to my physiological father's recent death.

"As C.D. Wright and I spent more and more time in Arkansas, her home state, renting a cabin in Hog Jaw near Lead Hill, I became more obsessed with landscape as an event. I wrote a long poetic libretto to Robert Johnson, making pilgrimages to Robinsonville and Three Forks, Mississippi, and to the music room at the Library of Congress where I listened to outtakes of Johnson's recordings which were commercially unavailable at that time. This poem, 'Life of Johnson upside Your Head,' became the foundation of Lynchburg, a book of poems focused on the landscape of the rural South.

"On the heels of Lynchburg, Deeds of Utmost Kindness was published in 1994. It, too, is concerned with landscapes, but diverse ones. Consisting of a prelude and six long poems, Deeds of Utmost Kindness models varied rhythms of thought and illustrates how different logics might work in the metaphoric structures of changing places. The poems also might be read as a curious travelogue in which the traveler's own foreign-ness, the 'I' not the 'you,' registers as the most deeply mysterious. In one of the sequences, 'The Blue Rock Collection,' formal structures are based on the characteristics of the mineral, crystal, or rock of the title. Quartz crystals, for instance, are translucent and hexagonal, and the poem titled 'Yellow Quartz' is composed of six lines and makes reference to the passage of light through windows.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Bloomsbury Review, March, 1994, p. 3.

Publishers Weekly, January 10, 1994, p. 58.

Virginia Quarterly Review, summer, 1994, p. 101.

World Literature Today, spring, 1994, p. 348.

ONLINE

Brown University Web site: Forrest Gander Home Page, http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Literary_Arts/people/Forrest (March 19, 2006).

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