Science and Steepleflower

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In Forrest Gander’s writing we see the kind of power that can derive from looking closely at, what Gander calls, “the audacious/ originality of the ordinary.” His poems move with ease from the scientific to the specifics of nature, from the physical realities of bodies, rocks, and insects to the complexities of cognition. He is a poet as comfortable with neutrinos and azimuths as he is with sneezes and groins.

His poetry also refuses to be solipsistic, as so often happens with poetry whose language is as “enriched” as Gander’s. He allows the larger world to enter his poems by reworking an eighteenth century journal in “The History of Manifest Destiny” or allowing an older, undereducated woman speak about her dead husband in the persona poem, “The Ark Upon His Shoulders.” There is a democratic sensibility in the poems that does not, however, shy away from the difficulties involved in much of contemporary poetry. He did not receive two Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative North American Poetry for nothing; occasionally his poems are quite opaque, but beautifully so.

For readers looking for the best, most innovative writing being done by a younger American poet, Gander’s SCIENCE AND STEEPLEFLOWER is a fine choice. His writing will not disappoint those eager to find poetry that is intellectually engaging, licentious in its love of the earth, and pleasurably surprising in its diction.