Forrest Gander, ‘The Sounding’


Je ontdekt het in een bundel waarmee hij, de dichter, Forrest Gander (1946), de Pullitzer prijs voor poëzie won in 2019. ‘Be with’ heet de bundel.
Dat ‘met iemand zijn’ wordt duidelijk als je verneemt dat Forrest Gander in 2016 zijn vrouw dichteres C.D. Wright (1949-2016) verloor: hersenklontertje bij een lange afstandsvlucht van Chili op weg naar huis in de USA.
Als je zelf ook al een tijdje met iemand bent, is het niet moeilijk je dat verlies voor te stellen.
Je leest één van de gedichten: ‘The sounding’ (de Peiling) en je probeert de tekst naar het Nederlands over te brengen.
Be with: met de inhoud van het gedicht.
Be with: met de dichter
Be with: met de afwezige persoon.
Be with: de verbinding met de persoon hier, nog steeds aanwezig.
Dan is er natuurlijk de vormelijkheid waarin betekenis, melodie en prosodie zo dicht mogelijk bij de oorspronkelijke tekst zouden moeten aanleunen. Je hoort mij voorzichtig zijn.
Ik bewonder de beelden die vanuit een diep onbereikbaar gemis ongenadig als een stortvloed door je heen gaan.
Lees en herlees dit prachtige gedicht.


The Sounding

What closes and then
luminous? What opens
and then dark? And into
what do you stumble
but this violet
extinction? With
froth on your lips.
8:16 a.m. The morning’s
sleepy face

rolls its million
eyes. Migrating flocks
of your likesame species
into transparency.
A birdwatcher lifts

her binoculars. The con-
tinuous with or without
your words
situates you here
(here (here)) even while
you knuckle your eyes
in disbelief. Those

voices you love (human
and not), can you
hear their echoes
hissing away like
fiery scale
from an ingot hammered
on some
blacksmith’s anvil?
And behind those
voices, what is that
the valves of your ears open
as black rain,
not in torrents, but
ceaselessly comes
unchecked out of everywhere
with nothing
to slacken it.

Forrest Gander, Be With (New Directions, 2018), 80pp.

shes missing you_600_72

De Peiling

Wat sluit en dan
lichtend? Wat opent
en dan donker? En waarover
struikel je
dan over dit violet
uitdoven? Met
schuim op je lippen.
8:16 a.m. ’s Morgends
slaperig gezicht

rolt zijn miljoen
ogen. Migrerend kuddes
van jouw gelijkende soorten
heet gloeiend
naar transparantie.
Een vogelaar licht

haar verrekijker. Het voort-
durende met of zonder
je woorden
situeert je hier
(hier (hier)) zelfs terwijl
je je ogen uitwrijft
in ongeloof. Deze

door jou geliefde stemmen (menselijk
en niet), kun je
hun echo’s horen
wegsissend zoals
een boze slag
van een gehamerde staaf
op een
hoefsmid’ s aambeeld?
En achter deze
stemmen, wat is dat
de schelpen van je oren
zoals zwarte regen,
niet in stortvloed, maar
onophoudelijk komt
ongecontroleerd weg van overal
met niets
om het te vertragen.


‘The best poetry, then, is like hearing your name called in a language you don’t understand. A word calls you, but the word is accented, stressed to make it unfamiliar. It is understandable, but you must work to respond to it.’


C.D. Wright was the wife of Forrest Gander, whose new collection of poems is under review here. Wright died unexpectedly in early 2016, from a clot that had formed inside a blood vessel on a flight home from Chile. Later in 2016 Gander published his translations of the lost poems of Pablo Neruda, Then Come Back (Copper Canyon), as well as Alice Iris Red Horse (New Directions), the selected poems of Yoshimasu Gōzō, which he edited, but Be With is his first book of his own poetry since Wright’s death. It is, unsurprisingly, a book full of death, of questions of translation and translinguality, and of testing the relationship between words and the world. (Lucas Klein review Forrest Gander’ s challenging new collection of poetry)


“Be With” — a book that probes, among other things, the sudden death of Gander’s wife, the celebrated poet C. D. Wright — explores a related question: How do we know where we ourselves begin or end? In many ways, the book’s focus is strikingly inward, showing how grief sounds in the body, mapping paths, making previously hidden regions visible. In another sense, Gander’s poems are public howls that trace a luminous borderland where the self dissolves into the world. The book’s epigraph tackles this friction head-on: “The political begins in intimacy.” (Tess Taylor NY Times 2018)


Read together, Gander’s verses have a shattering, symphonic quality, but he uses poetry to locate and dislocate at once, pushing against the borders of meaning or pitching his camp where language estranges itself from sense. “Poetry is more a threshold than a path,” Seamus Heaney once wrote, also during challenging political times. In this book, Gander’s poems are like rich Möbius strips, entrances and exits at once, tunnels that simultaneously displace us and gather us up, drawing us into a profound human longing. There are dazzling fragments, unraveling syntax, poems that, in their ghostliness, also force us to be alert to our own fragile lives. (ibidem)


Forrest Gander was born in the Mojave Desert and grew up, for the most part, in Virginia. A U.S. Artists Rockefeller fellow, Gander has been recipient of grants from the NEA, the Guggenheim, Howard, Witter Bynner and Whiting foundations. His 2011 collection Core Samples from the World was an NBCC and Pulitzer Prize finalist for poetry.(2019)

‘Experimental isn’t a very satisfying word to me. As someone said, No one has an experimental baby. Different kinds of poetry drive the art forward. I try to keep myself open to modes that aren’t comfortable to me. The ceramic artist Tracye Ware used to have a big sign in her kitchen: “Comfort Kills.” Some so-called experimental contemporary work challenges me, too. But I feel that that’s good for me. That I don’t get stuck in my ruts, am made to feel uncomfortable. When I hear work that can hop off in directions that seem quirky, I can feel as though I’m watching a mind at work that’s moving faster than my mind. So I just kind of hold on, and I can find that the effect overall is powerful and that I come away feeling that I am seeing something I haven’t seen before.’