In the Lateness of the World: Poems

Image of In the Lateness of the World: Poems
Release Date: 
March 10, 2020
Penguin Press
Reviewed by: 

“Forché has created a compelling collection that teaches us how to harness sentiment within our natural and historical world.”

Carolyn Forché concretes sentimental memories with clear natural and historical images within in her latest collection, In the Lateness of the World. She utilizes lists, landscapes, history, and word play to create diverse, free verse, and narrative poems that move the reader with genuine interactions with nature. Simple images are transformed into sentimental landscapes around the world. The poems provide accurate historical context and are not constrained to specific regions.

“Report from an Island” is set on a beach near Jakarta, Indonesia. The poem is a powerful commentary on our harsh impact on the natural environment; yet life still goes on, thus Forché creates a strong sense of melancholy.

Here are some stanzas that create that feeling: “In the sea, they say, there is an island made of bottles and other trash. / Plastic bags become clouds and the air a place for opportunistic birds. // One and a half million plastic pounds make their way there every hour. / The pellets are eggs to the seabirds and the bags jellyfish to the turtle.” Planes crashes, refuse, and earthquakes are also woven into the lines with ease. It is clear that the relaxed line flow and soft commentary strengthen melancholic sentiment.

Forché is a master of capturing precise moments where poems create metaphors; all are gripped, clear, and exact. Here are some lines from “Clouds”: “A whip-poor-will brushed / her wing along the ground / a moment ago, fifty years / in the orchard where my father / kept pear and plum, / a decade of peach trees / and Antonovka’s apples . . .”

“Clouds” expands on final apple image to describe “the soul of my mother / in a boat with blossoming / sails like apple petals / in wind fifty years at once.” Forché transforms the orchard into a permanent euphoric memory of the speaker’s mother by personifying the tree blossoms. The whip-poor-will mentioned on the opening line evokes this permanence, and then it is further fortified as the poem continues.

In the Lateness of the World is a quick read at 77 pages. Readers of all ages will enjoy this collection and constantly return to favorite poems, as all demand multiple reads. Poems are not abstract or visual. Landscapes are clear. Histories are clear. All are familiar. Forché has created a compelling collection that teaches us how to harness sentiment within our natural and historical world.