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Blue Hour: Poems

Blue Hour: Poems
Author: Carolyn Forche
ISBN 13: 9780060099138
ISBN 10: 60099135
Edition: Reprint
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: 2004-03
Format: Paperback
Pages: 96
List Price: $13.99

"Blue Hour is an elusive book, because it is ever in pursuit of what the German poet Novalis called 'the [lost] presence beyond appearance.' The longest poem, 'On Earth,' is a transcription of mind passing from life into death, in the form of an abecedary, modeled on ancient gnostic hymns. Other poems in the book, especially 'Nocturne' and 'Blue Hour,' are lyric recoveries of the act of remembering, though the objects of memory seem to us vivid and irretrievable, the rage to summon and cling at once fierce and distracted.

"The voice we hear in Blue Hour is a voice both very young and very old. It belongs to someone who has seen everything and who strives imperfectly, desperately, to be equal to what she has seen. The hunger to know is matched here by a desire to be new, totally without cynicism, open to the shocks of experience as if perpetually for the first time, though unillusioned, wise beyond any possible taint of a false or assumed innocence."

— Robert Boyers

The New Yorker

The title poem of Forché's fourth collection takes the birth of her son as a starting point for contemplation of her own childhood, just after the Second World War, an era when "it was not as certain that a child would live to be grown." The uncertainty of an individual's survival at any given point in history informs the first part of this volume, which mounts a quiet protest against the atrocities of the last century and insists that "even the most broken life can be restored to its moments." In such lines, Forché's persona -- unflinching witness and eloquent mourner -- prevails, but in the centerpiece of the collection, "On Earth," her obsessive documentation of inhumanity overwhelms her best lyric instincts. Forché cleverly chooses the abecedarian form -- where the initial letters of the lines form a progress through the alphabet -- to portray the agonal flickers of a dying mind, and yet the poem's collage of horrifying imagery feels gratuitous more often than it does inspired.