"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."
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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved