I have been diving in and out of this book for weeks now. When I read it, I feel as though I am on the edge of a great abyss. Always a sensation of imminence, of something about to happen, almost holding my breath. His openings are often breathtaking –


And then smelling it,

feeling it before

the sound even reaches



Or this –


What closes and then

luminous? What opens

and then dark? And into

what do you stumble

but this violet



There is much to process in this work, much loss and longing; a dense and startling word choice. Gander is a geologist by training and it is beautifully apparent in his work. I am loving this book.




11 comments on “BE WITH by FORREST GANDER”

    1. So well said, Barbara, and I am in agreement. I think of what a word can do, how it changes depending on how it is used. “Violet” for example – a rather old fasioned flower, a rich color which abides on one side of a rainbow. But when paired with “extinction,” woah. This takes me deep, deep into a place I am still wrapping my mind around.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, “violet extinction” made me think about the fact that if you take the “n” out of “violent” you’re left with a flower. And isn’t extinction a violence upon the world?

        Liked by 1 person

  1. My stars, JNaz. I have just been reading some poems in Be With, with the Trio Mediaeval singing music from the 12th century Huelgas Codex in the background (BBC Radio 3 is wonderful). I put down the book, walked to the computer, and saw the notification of your post about Be With! I was spurred to check it out of the library by a Poetry Off the Shelf episode in which Madonna del Parto and First Ballad: A Wreath were read by Forrest Gander. Did you listen to it, too? I was fascinated, and wanted to see First Ballad on the page because the interviewer mentioned its unusual use of the page.

    A friend asked me last week if I had a recommendation for a poem she could read at her son’s wedding reception, and I thought of First Ballad–particularly its ending, some of which is here (I added the slashes because the spacing wouldn’t hold–forgive me, FG):

    As two possess one being / / each alone possessed it
    Each of them in love / / a plenum of the Word

    Whose being each / / twined around the other
    Beyond comprehension / / an ineffable knot

    Such fervid love / / entwined the two together
    In one voice both possessed / / a plenum of the world
    The more that love was one / / the more of love there was

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Teri, I am reminded of something borkali wrote – “you must be my daughter from another dimension” – and thinking Teri! you must be my sister from another dimension. Loving the sychronicity of this. There is so much I wanted to say about Gander’s book, but it was late and I was tired and just needed to get something out there. The more I dive in, the more astounded I am. I too had checked it out of the library, read it, but quickly realized I needed to own it.
      Last night I listened to the Poetry Off the Shelf you mention – it had been waiting for me in my inbox for days. It added several more layers to my reading of this book.

      Liked by 3 people

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