cover image In the Lateness of the World

In the Lateness of the World

Carolyn Forché. Penguin, $24 (96p) ISBN 978-0-525-56040-1

In her first collection in 17 years, Forché (Blue Hour) powerfully weaves poems of witness, a travelogue steeped in elegiac contemplation of life in Finland, Italy, Russia, and, most affectingly, Vietnam. These 41 poems vibrantly catalogue human artifacts and those of the natural world. In “Hue: From a Notebook,” she writes: “There was then the whir of stork wings, and bicycle chains ringing./ It is still now the way the air is still just before the mine explodes.// Once we fired at each other. Now we pass silence back and forth.” Throughout, the speakers are meditative but unflinching in the face of war’s aftermath and ecological crisis: “From here a dog finds his way through snow with a human bone... Even the clocks have run out of time.” “Museum of Stones” displays a delightedly crackling verbal texture reminiscent of poems by Seamus Heaney (“stone of cromlech and cairn, schist and shale, hornblende,/ agate, marble, millstones, ruins of choirs and shipyards”). Such weights anchor Forche’s genuinely moving consideration of “ours and the souls of others, who glimmer beside us/ for an instant... radiant with significance,” communicating an urgent and affecting vision. (Mar.)