In the Lateness of the World

Penguin. Mar. 2020. 96p. ISBN 9780525560401. $24. POETRY
In her first new collection in 17 years, Forché (Blue Hour), who received an Academy of American Poets Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement in 2013, transports readers to faraway cities and islands and former and current war zones. Many poems exhibit an ethereal quality despite being grounded in the physicality of objects: “On the nativity tree, a tiny lute, a French horn and painted egg.” Descriptions of past wars with their trails of graves bring the work to recent times, as do poems such as “The Boatman,” which records a horrific sea crossing by immigrants not welcome anywhere. The writer also documents our damaged planet—“Motor scooters flock through the streets, a murmuration./ Crossing like starlings the skies. It is a matter of thirst”—with noatably long lines carrying the weight of her meaning.
VERDICT Throughout her career, Forché has forged poems of witness, and she does so here with beauty and lyricism. The one misstep is an overabundance of list poems; Forché can bring to life objects better than nearly anyone, but we want the revelatory journey behind them. Yet, finally, this bounty of rich poetry is recommended for all collections.
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