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Blue Hour

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  437 ratings  ·  46 reviews
"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 ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published March 16th 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published March 4th 2003)
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3.89  · 
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 ·  437 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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Marilyn McEntyre
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've revisited Carolyn Forché's poetry from time to time, and recently picked this one up again. It was the right book at the right moment. Her poems remind me that good poetry requires courage. And that good poetry show how precision illuminates and enhances but doesn't dispel mystery. She moves with shocking grace from the horror of war to the exquisite gift of some small, ordinary, beautiful thing, reminding me once again how the personal and the political are inextricably entwined. She doesn ...more
Arlitia Jones
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
These are the poems I read when I want to go deep into truth-lit woods, travel far far from where I started, with no chance of finding my way back.
Candy Burkett
Mar 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ethereal Travel into the Blue Hour

A dying body appears keenly aware of its soul tugging free and submerging into the space that is held for souls escaping the living and transitioning into the spiritual realm. The poems in Carolyn Forché’s book, Blue Hour, are guided by a female narrator, who passes in and out of consciousness during her recollections of memories and reality. Forché’s poetry reveals the narrator’s ability to examine the past, to exist in the present, and to foresee the future. I
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing

from the quarry of souls they come into being
supernal lights, concealed light, that which has no end

that which thought cannot attain
the going-forth, the as yet cannot be heard

—as a flame is linked to its burning coal
to know not only what is, but the other of what is
Kirsten Kinnell
Unbelievably stunning.
Claudia Cortese
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-reads
This book is a wound, a trauma. No, it's many wounds and many traumas. It's a polyphonic cry in the darkness of history, an utterance as beautiful as it is unbearable. In short, this is one of the most stunning collections of poetry I have ever read. Throughout her career, Forche has anthologized the stories of countless traumas, atrocities, wars, thousands of poems that bear witness to experiences that test of limits of what a human being can endure. Out of this collecting and witnessing and an ...more
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Blue Hour’s “On Earth” uses abecedarian to organize random moments in time. Each line acts as a snip-its of life observations. While abecedarians were traditionally used “for sacred compositions, such as prayers, hymns, and psalms,” this poem acts as an antithesis to religion. It questions God’s motives. While each line contains its own distinct thought, the poem is held together by the repetition of a letter or phrase in the beginning of each line. The first abecedarian set starts with “a” obse ...more
Jeremy Allan
Nov 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
The difficulty of giving a book a rating goes without saying, but Forché's Blue Hour presents an extra challenge; the volume only collects 11 poems, including a 47-page abecedarium. How to rate a book with any precision when of it are dedicated to a single piece? I doubt there is a way.

All the same I enjoyed this book and want to rate it well. I think it finds Forché returning to a more lyric sensibility than in the volumes immediately before it, and I think her political project benefits from
Jul 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Saw Forche read at the UND writer's conference. I first read Forche poetry in high school so she's been around a long time although she's only published four volumes.

The centerpiece of this book is a 42 page alphabet-indexed poem imitiating Gnostic abecedarian hymns. It's a poem of snippets, tiny moment, little images.

Here are a few of my favorites, which pulled from the overall work seem to form a little poem of their own:
as any backward look is fictive...born with a map of calamity in her p
Laurel L. Perez
Apr 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
This collection was not at all what I thought it might be, it was better in many ways. The first few poems were lovely, and I found myself ruminating over lines here & there that were especially provocative. However, what really takes the cake is the 47 page poem "On Earth" which sounds like an environmental diatribe, but oh no no, it is not. It is a close look at humanity. The hymn quality and the alphabetical stringencies of the form make this poem even more fantastic and epic in proportio ...more
Feb 28, 2008 rated it liked it
Another one of those books that makes me worry that I don't actually like poetry. Forché gives me a line or three per page that really strike me, but I would have to work harder than I apparently want to in order to understand what she is talking about beyond the fact that she has known someone(s?) who died. She plays with the boundary between comprehensible description of reality and abstract imagery, and her transitions between the two are so frequent and seamless that I find it pretty hard to ...more
Dec 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is unlike anything I've ever read. The 45-page, gnostic-abcederian "On Earth" is haunting and masterful. This is a list at its best and most forceful. As certain motifs and words reappeared, a tension arose for me between witnessing and repeating. Such recording, of course, is essential, but devastating. Certain of Forche's lines helped me read her: “a random life caught in a net of purpose” (16); “as any new act inflicts its repetition” (32); “as the fence has recorded the wind” (33); ...more
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
An insightful, unflinching, mystical, sensual, repetitive, tenacious, and alphabetized litany of meditations on the hour before dawn, when the mind is said to apprehend the "radiance of its true nature." A stenography of collective unconscious. Lots of good quotations, too, referenced in the end notes.
Jan 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: err-body
Recommended to Myron by: the academy of american poets
How does one approach death? the same way one approaches life, I guess. Question after Question to see that what isn't is. I recommend Carolyn Forche's BLUE HOUR to anyone who has lost anything, who has seen or felt the spirit of the deceased or another world. This book of poetry is other-worldly and human with suffering. And the Abecedarian "On Earth" is to die for; pun intended;)
Nov 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of poetry
Shelves: poetry
I really liked this book of poetry by Carolyn Forche. I found it at my local library and it contains the poems and writings Carolyn was working on when she passed.

I found some of the poems had almost a mystical quality to them, hauntingly sad & melodic.

This was my first book of poetry I have read by Carolyn Forche - I will probably try to get more books by her in the future.

Nov 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
The form of this book blows my mind. Very imagistic, complicated, and above all, accomplished... Forche has quickly become one of my favorite poets since I started writing poetry seriously. "The Country Between Us" is incredible, but this one offers something equally inspiring on a completely different level.
May 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
5 stars full and brimming over. cannot say enough about it. too good to say anything really. i am in awe. this is perhaps best poetry i have read in my entire life. and she is an amazing woman. i will say no more.
Feb 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, poetry
I love Carolyn Forche. She is a wonderful poet. This book is another example of her talent.
Cindy Huyser
Sep 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
What a great book of poetry. "The Earth" alone is stunning. Well worth the reader's time.
Jul 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Favorites: "Sequestered Writing"; "On Earth"
Apr 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Seems very like Dickinson, subdued, yet also Whitmanesque--especially the long poem "On Earth." Fabulous book.
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, poetry
as a flame is linked to its burning coal
Jan 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Longer prose poems than in the COUNTRY BETWEEN US. Enjoying the change in poetic structure. Her voice is edgy, image-specific, no "poetiky" gunk. Good voice.
Jan 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
The long poem "On Earth" is luscious and amazing. Worth the whole book and more.
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, own
The centerpiece of this collection is "On Earth," a 45-page abecedarian on loss and mourning and death and life after death, and, simply put, it's probably one of the most affecting pieces of poetry I've ever read. It's an outpouring of anguish in the form of a trance-like, ritualistic litany; an attempt to make logic and order out of illogical and disorderly things; an encompassing index of a life's worth of memory and experience. It's categorization as coping mechanism, cataloging everything i ...more
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
A blue daybook hidden in my bed with his name
a branch weighted with pears
a hotel haunted by a wedding dress
a little hotel in the city with its windows open
a little invention for sweeping crumbs from the table
a locket’s parted lovers face to face
a man repainting his wooden house in stopped time
a man vanishing while he danced
after having gone all the way to the end
after his internment and before his suicide
again and again
against a sea of recriminations
against a winter pine, ea
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry

Here is the abecedarian.
Here is the beauty for/in ashes.
Here is the blue hour of reading.

Here is the dress of the poetess.
Here is the ghost of the holy.
Here is the heart of/on being.

Here is the litany of love letters.
Here is the lost and found of meaning.
Here is the reading room of speaking.

Here is the refugee of God.
Here is the sorrow of yesterday
the sorrow of today and tomorrow.

Here is the soul train upon return journey.
Here is the witness of becoming
hidden human language light and refuge.
Lucy Allison
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Anyone who knows me knows I love Carolyn Forché, and I so wish I was intelligent enough to understand fully every part of this collection and therefore give it 5 stars.

"On Earth" is the longest and best poem here, and caused a big old existential crisis. The notes at the end of the book are essential to its understanding unless you speak at least four languages. Forché always creates such a wonderful sense of time and place. I can't wait to read The Country Between Us.
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017, poetry
The abecedarian poem that makes up most of this book, "On Earth," is stunning. I have no words for it yet. It makes me want to cover an entire wall with clippings and concordances and flowcharts and analysis like an insane conspiracy theorist.

It's also why I need to stop reading when I start getting tired at night rather than negotiating with myself because "well, one more poem won't take that long, right?"
Gabriel Clarke
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
First of all, it's the language, limpid, visionary, fluidly moving between sorrow, beauty, horror and fragments of remembered joy. Then there's the compassion and clarity of the long 'abecedarian hymn', On Earth. A book that seeks to mediate the unknowable moment between life and death and a true treasure house of images.
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Carolyn Forché was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1950. She studied at Michigan State University and earned an MFA from Bowling Green State University. Forché is the author of four books of poetry: Blue Hour (HarperCollins, 2004); The Angel of History (1994), which received the Los Angeles Times Book Award; The Country Between Us (1982), which received the Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay di C ...more
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