Carolyn Roché's first new collection in seventeen years, is a tenebrous 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.
In order to understand what Forché is doing on the page, you have to look between the rows of type, and see what she leaves in the white space of your imagination. You have to rejigger, if not jettison entirely, your ideas or preconceptions about political writing and about what makes a poem. Forché’s stately stanzas—her writing is never hurried—are the work of a literary reporter, Gloria Emerson as filtered through the eyes of Elizabeth Bishop or Grace Paley. Free of jingoism but not of moral gravity, Forché’s work questions—when it does question—how to be or to become a thinking, caring, communicating adult ... She asks us to consider the sometimes unrecognized, though always felt, ways in which power inserts itself into our lives and to think about how we can move forward with what we know ... delicate but hawklike observations show us the broken dreams and false idols that are left in the wake of violence, folly, and time ... Forché’s strongest critics seem to agree on this: that she, with her various intensities, can be 'too much.' But isn’t the world too much? Toni Morrison once observed that there is no such thing as bigger than life: life is big. Forché, in her profoundly ambitious work, aims to capture that bigness, line by line. In In the Lateness of the World, one feels the poet cresting a wave—a new wave that will crash onto new lands and unexplored territories. To read the book straight through is to see connections between her earlier work and her new poems because, by looking at the world, she has made a world, one in which her past is as present as her future.
The first poetry collection in almost two decades from Forché...is an undisputed literary event. Forché's poems—ever earnest, forcefully compassionate, often solemn—bear witness to the suffering of others...often looking beyond America's borders, while holding America to account for the global consequences of its actions ... Cast in long-lined couplets, free verse sequences, and jagged stanzas, Forché's best poems—and this new book contains some of them — speak as a kind of generalized conscience, 'someone standing in the aftermath,' heavy with guilt, but also lit by a strange hope that stems from an unshakable belief in human goodness and perseverance.
It is perhaps more accurate to call the book crisis poetry rather than climate poetry. Forché is more attuned to the suffering of the people living through climate crisis now, elsewhere on the globe, than the imagined, projected suffering of our own children and grandchildren who might live to see similar conditions right here ... This book is a stern kind of elegy—this is our fault, we let it get too late—with none of the confessional shame of The Shore. Her approach is much less personal; you have to look for her in these poems ... Though they’re not joy-driven, the poems aren’t joyless either. Here objects of nature have mystical power, an aura, and there is pleasure just in naming them precisely. Many poems contain these lists of objects, lists of labels that need no further explanation or embellishment ... But there is, at times, in place of survivor’s guilt or self-flagellation, a touch of self-righteousness ... (I read somewhere recently that language poetry is smug—but all poetry is smug, I thought.)