I Waited 17 Years for This Poetry | Sojourners

I Waited 17 Years for This Poetry

A review of ‘In the Lateness of the World: Poems,’ by Carolyn Forché.

CAROLYN FORCHÉ’S FOURTH poetry collection, Blue Hour, appeared in 2003, and her readers have longed for the next ever since. It’s hard to imagine any poetry book worth a wait of 17 years. Forché’s new collection, In the Lateness of the World, is worth more.

As the title suggests, Forché explores a dying world—countries ravaged and erased by war, islands drowned in natural disasters, seas overflowing with garbage. The poems are both haunting and haunted, including the memories of a lost world and the corpses that remain.

Forché coined the term “poetry of witness.” Her witness here is not only characteristically unflinching but also a challenge to readers.

The first half of the book mostly grieves the world’s tragedies at large, but always with the particularity that gives her ghosts a pulse. Nearly every poem includes rapid lists of sharp images. Forché’s lists dizzy and overwhelm, effectively dropping us into warzones and forcing us to follow her through an apocalypse.

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