Forrest Gander – Be With

The Pulitzer Prize for Poetry – 2019

Forrest Gander – Be With – Winner
A. E. Stallings – Like
Jos Charles – Feeld

Forrest Gander – Be With
Plot: Drawing from his experience as a translator, Forrest Gander includes in the first, powerfully elegiac section a version of a poem by the Spanish mystical poet St. John of the Cross. He continues with a long multilingual poem examining the syncretic geological and cultural history of the U.S. border with Mexico. The poems of the third section—a moving transcription of Gander’s efforts to address his mother dying of Alzheimer’s—rise from the page like hymns, transforming slowly from reverence to revelation. Gander has been called one of our most formally restless poets, and these new poems express a characteristically tensile energy and, as one critic noted, “the most eclectic diction since Hart Crane.”

A. E. Stallings – Like
Plot: Like, that currency of social media, is a little word with infinite potential; it can be nearly any part of speech. Without it, there is no simile, that engine of the lyric poem, the lyre’s note in the epic. A poem can hardly exist otherwise. In this new collection, her most ambitious to date, A. E. Stallings continues her archeology of the domestic, her odyssey through myth and motherhood in received and invented forms, from sonnets to syllabics. Stallings also eschews the poetry volume’s conventional sections for the arbitrary order of the alphabet. Contemporary Athens itself, a place never dull during the economic and migration crises of recent years, shakes off the dust of history and emerges as a vibrant character. Known for her wry and musical lyric poems, Stallings here explores her themes in greater depth, including the bravura performance Lost and Found, a meditation in ottava rima on a parent’s sublunary dance with daily-ness and time, set in the moon’s Valley of Lost Things.

Jos Charles – Feeld
Plot: Selected by Fady Joudah as a winner of the 2017 National Poetry Series, Jos Charles’s revolutionary second collection of poetry, feeld, is a lyrical unraveling of the circuitry of gender and speech, defiantly making space for bodies that have been historically denied their own vocabulary.

“I care so much abot the whord i cant reed.” In feeld, Charles stakes her claim on the language available to speak about trans experience, reckoning with the narratives that have come before by reclaiming the language of the past. In Charles’s electrifying transliteration of English–Chaucerian in affect, but revolutionary in effect–what is old is made new again. “gendre is not the tran organe / gendre is yes a hemorage.” “did u kno not a monthe goes bye / a tran i kno doesnt dye.” The world of feeld is our own, but off-kilter, distinctly queer–making visible what was formerly and forcefully hidden: trauma, liberation, strength, and joy.

Urgent and vital, feeld composes a new and highly inventive lyrical narrative of what it means to live inside a marked body.