Post-fire Forest

Shadows of shadows without canopy,
phalanxes of carbonized trunks and
snags, their inner momentum shorted-out.
They surround us in early morning
like plutonic pillars, like mute clairvoyants
leading a Sursum Corda, like the excrescence
of some long slaughter. All that moves
is mist lifting, too indistinct to be called
ghostly, from scorched filamental
layers of rain-moistened earth. What
remains of the forest takes place
in the exclamatory mode. Cindered
utterances in a tongue from which
everything trivial has been volatilized,
everything trivial to fire. In a notch,
between near hills stubbled
with black paroxysm, we spot
a familiar sun, liquid glass globed
at the blowpipe’s tip. If this landscape
is dreaming, it must dream itself awake.

You have, everyone notes, a rare talent
for happiness. I wonder how
to value that, walking through wreckage.
On the second day, a black-backed
woodpecker answers your call, but we
search until twilight without finding it.

by Forrest Gander

Two brief notices: we recently launched our international poetry competition, which is judged this year by Caroline Bird. And we’re looking forward to an upcoming poetry event in Oxford with John Hegley and a ‘heartbreak poetry slam’ – join us by getting your tickets from the Old Fire Station website. You can find out more about our work in our latest newsletter or on social media – we’re @brookespoetry.

‘Post-fire Forest’ is copyright © Forrest Gander, 2022, and is reprinted here from Your Nearness (Arc Publications, 2022) by permission of Arc. It was first published in The New Yorker in April 2021, where you can also hear Forrest Gander read it. You can read more about the book on the Arc website.

Notes from Arc Publications:

Forrest Gander’s book Your Nearness explores the relationship between the natural and the human worlds, focussed especially on the state of California, where he lives. As the poet John Burnside has written, ‘Forrest Gander knows that the poet’s first duty is “to see what’s there and not already patterned by familiarity” – and in Your Nearness he brings to that task a combination of vision, generosity of spirit and humility in the face of wonder that singles him out as one of the finest, and most vigilant, poets working in English today.’

You can read more about the book on the Arc website, where you can also buy a copy.

Forrest Gander, a writer and translator with degrees in geology and literature, was born in the Mojave Desert, grew up in Virginia, and taught at Harvard University before becoming the AK Seaver Professor at Brown University.

His work has long been associated with environmental concerns. Among Gander’s most recent books are Be With, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize, the novel The Trace, and Core Samples from the World. Gander’s translations include Alice Iris Red Horse: Poems by Gozo Yoshimasu and Then Come Back: the Lost Poems of Pablo Neruda.

He has a history of collaborating with artists such as Ann Hamilton, Sally Mann, Graciela Iturbide and Vic Chesnutt. Recipient of grants from the Library of Congress, the Guggenheim, Howard, Whiting and United States Artists foundations, Gander lives in northern California.

You can find out more about Forrest Gander’s work on his website.

Founded in 1969, Arc Publications publishes contemporary poetry from new and established writers from the UK and abroad, specialising in the work of international poets writing in English, and the work of overseas poets in translation. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. To learn more about Arc and to see its range of titles, visit the publisher’s website. You can also find Arc on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.