Chris Forhan ’82
Barrow Street Books, 2009

In Chris Forhan’s latest collection of poems, Black Leapt In, the writer draws upon his childhood in Seattle, using striking natural images and startling honesty and insight. He balances straightforward description of the environment he grew up in with an older, wiser voice that recollects, sometimes sarcastically, that time in his life. Forhan dedicated Black Leapt In to his father, who died in 1973, and many of the poems allude to him.

Religion and family weave their way through the pieces: “The priest sang in Latin. He didn’t ask my opinion. | The slim missal my mother pressed to my palm | she longed to offer to a better boy, | the twin I’d killed in the womb,” he writes in “Self-Portrait.”

Nature is also a prevalent theme, especially in poems like “Flowers of the World, with Full-Color Plates” and “The Woods.” In still other poems like “Last Words,” “The night sky’s a black stretch limo, boss in the back behind tinted glass.” And the “Slur of sunlight filling the backyard. August’s high wattage,” colors “What My Father Left Behind.”

The book won the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize in 2008. Overall, it is a poignant collection containing themes and subjects of family, nature, grief, and childhood to which many readers will relate.