In the Lateness of the World
Carolyn Forche is one of America’s most important contemporary poets – renowned as a ‘poet of witness’ – as well as an indefatigable human rights activist. Over four decades, she has crafted visionary work that has reinvigorated poetry’s power to awaken the reader. Her groundbreaking poems have been testimonies, enquiries and wonderments. They daringly map a territory where poetry asserts our inexhaustible responsibility to each other. In the Lateness of the World is a dark book of crossings, of migrations across oceans and borders but also between the present and the past, life and death. The poems call to the reader from the end of the world where they are sifting through the aftermath of history. Forche imagines a place where ‘you could see everything at once… every moment you have lived or place you have been’. The world here seems to be steadily vanishing, but in the moments before the uncertain end, an illumination arrives and ‘there is nothing that cannot be seen’. In the Lateness of the World is a revelation from one of the finest poets writing today. Her meditative poetry has a majestic sweep, with themes ranging from life on earth and human existence to history, war, genocide and the Holocaust. In the Lateness of the World is her first new collection in seventeen years, and follows three other collections published by Bloodaxe in Britain, The Country Between Us (1981/2018), The Angel of History (1994) and Blue Hour (2003). Jane Miller called Blue Hour ‘a masterwork for the 21st century’. According to Joyce Carol Oates (New York Times Book Review), Forche’s ability to wed the “political” with the “personal” places her in the company of such poets as Pablo Neruda, Philip Levine and Denise Levertov.
It has been 17 years since Carolyn Forche published a book of poems, and In the Lateness of the World announces she is back. Coming fast on the heels of her memoir of last year this book is bursting with poems of migration, crossing, and looking back. It is as if the poet is standing, one foot in the river, wondering which way the next crossing will go. Drawing on her own travels and periods of reporting, on the world's seemingly endless upheaval, these poems move beyond disquiet and creates the charged ethical field in which we all live, all the time, especially at that moment we move. -- John Freeman * Lit Hub * Carolyn Forche makes a complex voice for all the mute victims of our destructive world as the killing goes on and the patterns of our lives continue our committed self-destruction. Hers is the heroism which still cares. -- Robert Creeley Part of poetry's tragic knowledge is that elegy is endless. Yet in its power to recall and to memorialise, elegy also effaces time and reinvests loss, the lost, with life. It is a form of overcoming, essential to our knowing of, and dwelling in, the present and to our becoming human... Carolyn Forche is one of the contemporary masters of that form, that act. -- Michael Palmer Again Carolyn Forche hovers above the lacerated landscape of history filling the holes "between saying and said". Blue Hour does not console but emboldens. The fear we share is never dodged. This singular voice is writ in bone, snow, coal, stone and sorrow. -- C.D. Wright
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