Domesticated poet


Forrest Gander did not stand like a poet lauded many times over. Winner of a Whiting Award, two Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative North American Writing, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for Arts, the Brown University English professor took to the podium hunched beneath his jacket, as if he were simply stopping by to have a drink with the 70 or so audience members before slipping out the door.

But he soon put on his poetry-reading cap, beginning with works by Jaime Saenz, which Gander translated with Kent Johnson. He highlighted the evening, the first of the University’s 2004–05 Poem Present series, with three poems from his 2001 book Torn Awake.

That he teaches a Brown course on phenomenology is appropriate for Gander, whose evocative diction engaged the Classics 10 listeners with everyday images from “air vibrant with mosquitoes” to a girl whose shyness “sits at the edge of her plate like a fly.” He told the audience, “I am not given a subject, but I am given to a subject; I am in it.”

Economical with his commentary, he let his work speak for him. Only once did he look up from his verse to warn, “I seem to be increasingly becoming a poet of domesticity”—hinging on themes of love in its playful, erotic, and paternal forms—an evolution he attributed to his teenage son.

Meredith Meyer, ’07

October 11, 2004