A Look at Forrest Gander — a Mass Poetry Festival Feature Poet

The Massachusetts Poetry Festival is just three months away (May 2-4 in Salem), and today, with a portrait of one of our feature poets, we begin a series to entice you to comeForrest Gander. We believe if you have a sense of the poet Forrest Gander, you’ll want to see and hear him in person.

Gander has lived all over; he was born in the Mojave Desert, grew up in Virginia, has lived in San Francisco, Dolores Hildalgo (in Mexico),  Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and currently lives in Rhode Island where he teaches at Brown University. His mind has a wide range, also. Not only has he translated Mexican, Latin American, Spanish and Japanese poets, but he holds a degree in geology as well as English literature.

Toward the end of this piece, we’ll point you to sites where you can read an in-depth biography, hear him reading his own poems, and see a list of the numerous national prizes he has won both as a poet and as a translator. The material on the site also points to a man with a generous spirit. How often do you see a poet’s website with lots of links to, and commendations for, the works  of other poets and writers? When you see the videos with his poems as voice-overs, you’ll be impressed with his pleasing, engaging voice, deep but not too deep, musical but in no way sing-songy. He is an engaging reader. And he reads his own wonderful poems.

But before the links, here are his answers to questions about poetry and being a poet that we asked him:

Mass Poetry: Who had the most impact on your writing when you were a beginning poet? In what way?
Forrest Gander:  No single figure. My mother who read real poetry to me when I was a child. Brady Earnhart and Michael Perrow when I was in college. It was their focus and passion for poetry, their more developed aesthetics. Robert Creeley, whose work we all loved and still love. Wallace Stevens for his meditative strangeness and lucidity. Later CD Wright who is an excellent close reader and Frank Stanford who had ideas and energy for twelve people. Lorine Niedecker for the precision of her perception.

MP:  What convinced you that you had to be a poet?
FG:  I’m not a talker, not even comfortable in ordinary conversations. I’ve always had to turn to the page to discover what I wanted to say.

MP:  What do you think is the most exciting development in poetry today?
FG:  The very fact that in an age of spectacle, the young are still drawn to poetry, the anti-spectacle. The interior is always larger.

MP:  What emerging poets do you find interesting? Why?
FG:  A lot of the most talented younger poets that I know are doing a lot more than publishing and promoting their own work. They’re often involved in starting presses, hosting websites, collaborating, translating, and otherwise making company, as Creeley would say. Among the first to come to mind are Matt Henrikson, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Jen Tynes, Susan Scarlata, Carmen Gimenez Smith, Sawako Nakayasu, Lynn Xu, and Joyelle McSweeney. And each is a distinctively exciting writer.

MP: What are you most looking forward to at the Mass Poetry Festival?
FG:  Again, that company who keep the word.

And here are the promised links:

In the coming weeks, we will present information about the other festival feature poets.


  1. […] Salem, and the schedule will be up soon! In the meantime, learn more about globe-trotting headliner Forrest Gander, who says, “in an age of spectacle, the young are still drawn to poetry, the […]