A Poem from Forrest Gander’s Be With, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

'And into / what do you stumble / but this violet / extinction?'

April 15, 2019  By Forrest Gander

The following is a poem from Be With, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize. 


The Sounding

What closes and then
luminous? What opens
and then dark? And into
what do you stumble
but this violet
extinction? With
froth on your lips.
8:16 a.m. The morning’s
sleepy face

rolls its million
eyes. Migrating flocks
of your likesame species
into transparency.
A birdwatcher lifts

her binoculars. The con-
tinuous with or without
your words
situates you here
(here (here)) even while
you knuckle your eyes
in disbelief. Those

voices you love (human
and not), can you
hear their echoes
hissing away like
fiery scale
from an ingot hammered
on some
blacksmith’s anvil?
And behind those
voices, what is that
the valves of your ears open
as black rain,
not in torrents, but
ceaselessly comes
unchecked out of everywhere
with nothing
to slacken it.


From Be WithUsed with permission of New Directions Publishing. Copyright © 2018 by Forrest Gander.

Forrest Gander
Forrest Gander was born in the Mojave Desert and grew up in Virginia. The recipient of grants from the Library of Congress and the Guggenheim, Howard, Whiting and United States Artists Foundations, he taught for many years as the AK Seaver Professor of Literary Arts and Comparative Literature at Brown University. He lives in Petaluma, California. His last book, Be With, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

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