Blue Hour: Poems

Blue Hour: Poems

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by Carolyn Forche
     
 

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"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

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"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

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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
“Unflinching witness and eloquent mourner.”
Hartford Courant
“Resplendent and solemn … takes readers to similar state of limbo, someplace between the conscious and the intuited.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review
“An eerily beautiful, bruised and persuasive book.”
American Book Review
“Like the scatter from a fireworks explosion, Forché‘s images float on the currents of the reader’s memory.”
North American Review
“A ferocious remembering in the face of death, in the face of life.”
Publishers Weekly
In addition to winning acclaim for her 1994 collection The Angel of History, Forch has been active as an anthologist (Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness) and translator of Georg Trakl, Claribel Alegria and, most recently, Mahmoud Darwish (Unfortunately, It Was Paradise; Forecasts, Nov. 25), among others. The title of this fourth collection, her first since Angel, translates the French phrase for pre-dawn light into a state of mind that turns everything into a hypnopompic dream or bardic state. Forch 's speaker's memories (of childhood, of nursing her son in Paris) are intermingled with ethereal images of 20th century horror, and dosed with a mysticism derived from Heidegger and Buber. This puts her squarely in the territory of visionary abstraction Michael Palmer and Jorie Graham have been mining; like them, Forch is willing to let the contradictions of this technique speak for themselves. "In the Exclusion Zones," for example, is lovely and mysterious in its brevity, but is revealed in the endnotes to refer to the contaminated earth around Chernobyl. The book's tour de force, "On Earth," orders arrhythmic fragments alphabetically over 47 pages in the manner of "gnostic abecedarians," and foregrounds its lyric complications more concretely: "more ominous than any oblivion/ mortar smoke mistaken for an orchard of flowering pears." The poems' success ultimately rests in the reader's tolerance for gestures aimed at sensuality and sensibility in the face of atrocity, though the 10 or so shorter poems that precede "On Earth" are more modest in their ambitions, arousing and sating the longing for beauty with fewer attendant complications. (Mar.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In her fourth collection (after The Angel of History) Forche writes with lyrical melancholy about time passing and about the links between people through time. In the title poem, she recalls the early hours of her son's life and relates them to her grandmother Eloise's stay in an asylum when she herself was a child: "What one of us lives through, each must, so that this, of which we are/ part, will know itself." What Forche does best in these poems is to establish mood, which she accomplishes by animating objects: "A viola, night-voiced, calls into its past but nothing comes." She also uses color to provide intensity: "Here grew bellflower and blind gentian, blue-eyed grass and touch-me-/ not, I don't know who came into that room but spirits also came." Here, Forch often uses a longer, more flowing line than in past works as well as short verses-often a single sentence-that sweep the reader along. The result is dense, lyrical, mysterious, occasionally demanding-and a poetic journey that no reader should miss. Recommended for all collections.-Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060099138
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/16/2004
Series:
Harper Perennial Series
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
96
Sales rank:
738,457
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.21(d)

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