In the Lateness of the World by Carolyn Forché PBS Spring Recommendation 2020
Carolyn Forché 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. Forché 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), Forché’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.