Core Samples from the World
by Forrest Gander
New Directions, $15.95 (paper)

Forrest Gander’s latest book injects ethical consequence into his daring sense of the permeability of structure and the instability of form. Recounting his recent travels to such places as China, Mexico, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Gander attempts to assay otherness in these locales, and in the process braids poems and lyric prose meditations, all of them incorporating phrases from disparate languages, and joins them to the haunting photography of Raymond Meeks, Graciela Iturbide, and Lucas Foglia. These juxtapositions undo any notion that books require a unity of form or established generic boundaries. Much has been made of the insistent sense of place in Gander’s poems, often the American South. In Core Samples Gander burrows into the particularities of disparate places and cultures in order to sound the differences between them. His work moves across forms and modes, reminding us that writing is an action, a process of creation, itself a form of travelling. Yet he never loses sight of the fact that to address the other is to risk absorbing the other. “Let’s get this process right,” he warns (and encourages) us. “Want to find my bearings in what’s real. / Move in a way that’s more connected.” Core Samples does not wash away tensions among and between differences; it mines them for their possibilities of revelation. This is an ambitious step forward for one of our most searching writers.