In The Lateness of the World is the fourth collection from Carolyn Forché, coiner of the phrase ‘poetry of witness’. Seventeen years on from her last collection, Blue Hour, Forché continues to bear witness with her poems, which here serve as war correspondence, warnings and eulogies, to both individuals and the world around us.
Intertextuality and a search for connection with other poets is a key theme of the collection. The title is a line from American poet Robert Duncan’s ‘Poetry, a Natural Thing’. Like Duncan, Forché laces her poetry with rich imagery of the natural world, for example in ‘Travel Papers’:
Mountains before and behind,
heather and lichen, yarrow, gorse,
then a sea village of chartreuse fronds.
However, this is a natural world that is disappearing:
villages, past horses grazing vanished fields.
Duncan asserts that: ‘Neither our vices nor our virtues/further the poem’, and that poetry is not a conscious endeavour, but rather ‘The poem/feeds upon thought, feeling, impulse’ in order to ‘breed itself’. Forché’s poetry, meanwhile, seems inspired by a desire to document the truth, and call the reader to action...
This is an excerpt of a review by Kai Durkin of Carolyn Forché's In the Lateness of the World. For more information on Forché at StAnza21, please click HERE. To read the whole review, go to the DURA webpage.