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The author’s training as a geologist influences the themes and forms of the poems and the single essay in this book. Often his poetic forms are determined by rock characteristics, even when the concerns of the poem are intensely human. For instance, a poem about a set of perceived relationships at twilight from the Crystal section titled “yellow quartz” breaks into six lines and references the passage of light because quartz crystals are pellucid and hexagonal. In another sequence, “Line of Descent,” sharply shifting lines of poetry enact the cutbacks and bends of the path into the Grand Canyon by which father and son descend through lines of sediment and lines of story along the bloodline that ties them together. Without calling attention to themselves, such forms underpin the strong emotional terrain upon which all the poems, whether focused on erotic love, fatherhood, the histories of empire, or the dialogue between scientific rationalism and poetic imagination, are situated. With an eye toward what we stand on literally, Gander concentrates our attention toward what we stand on and for in our various relationships with others and with the world
‘It isn’t long before the ethereal quality of these poems [in Torn Awake] begins to remind you of similar effects in the work of T. S. Eliot and the 17th century Anglo-Welsh mystic Henry Vaughan . . . The voices vary throughout this book’s six highly speculative sequences . . . yet again and again they call from their spectral airiness a single recurring image, an elemental configuration of man, woman and child. Indeed the book ends with a consideration of just such a threesome frozen forever in the aftermath of an earthquake on ancient Cyprus, with the speaker proposing that such a piteous sight can be taken as either a story with no meaning or a meaning beyond story. In the midst of such questioning, the only reality is the poet’s unflinchingly curious mind.’ —David Kirby
‘Geologic codes, discoveries, plains, and entrances, Forrest Gander’s long poems, transforming their language into imagery that bristles with energy.’ —Ray González