‘to stand where the crossing happens’ (Forrest Gander)

by wiggs66

mersey creek

(a muddy creek into the Mersey…Anglo-Saxon mǽres – boundary, ēa – river)

In Liverpool earlier this week to hear the rather inspiring  Forrest Gander read. Over from the US, Forrest was appearing as part of the Miriam Allott Visiting Writers series, under the auspices of the Centre for New and International Writing at Liverpool University. A geologist by first training, Forrest is known for his experimentation and ecopoetics, and for being an experienced translator. His poetry is informed by his background in geology, and by his commitment to the idea that an artist should explore those places where ‘the familiar is lost’. In addition to reading some beautiful, expansive, yet profoundly precise poems, he talked of collaboration as a ‘model for social engagement’, touching on his own collaborations with fine artists, glass blowers, photographers, dancers…! He also teaches translation at Brown University, and shared  one of his own translations, a moving piece by Mexican poet Coral Bracho, from her collection El ser que va a morir (parts of which are included in Firefly Under the Tongue). This piece was invigorated by his decision to leave sections still in the original Spanish, paying a kind of reverent attention to Bracho’s source text. Afterwards we chatted about mince pies and their lack of minced meat (translators beware) and the very lively debate around translation theory, with Forrest disarmingly saying at one point, ‘After all the cook books and theory, you know, what counts is: can you fucking cook!’ The man can certainly cook.

Here are the last lines of ‘Proximity’, the fourth section of his long poem ‘The Hugeness of that which is Missing’ (Torn Awake, 2001) lines which seem especially pertinent to both translation and to what it is that poetry actually does–

“Apparent world, the book insists, / not the only one. Or is this a mistranslation? // To say: I have lost the consolation of faith / though not the ambition to worship, // to stand where the crossing happens.”

Coral Bracho reading with Forrest Gander:


The Centre for New and International Writing: