'And the house? in Nocturne by Carolyn Forché' - An essay by Agnieszka Studzińska

‘And the house? in Nocturne by Carolyn Forché’
– An essay by Agnieszka Studzińska

Agnieszka Studzinska has an MA in Creative Writing from the UEA. Her first debut collection, Snow Calling was shortlisted for the London New Poetry Award 2010. Her second collection, What Things Are is published by Eyewear Publishing (2014). She has poems published in The Long Poem Magazine, The Manhattan Review, Wildcourt, Agenda, Myslexia, as well as having poems featured in several other anthologies. Her poem ‘Winged Narratives’ was nominated for the 2019 Forward Prize for best single poem.  She is currently working towards her PhD at Royal Holloway University of London exploring how the image of the house is appropriated in contemporary American poetry. She teaches creative writing to adults, undergraduates and for The Poetry School in London.

This essay is part of the 2020 Inside Writing showcase.


Inside writing is the house. Inside the house there is writing. Inside our houses right now, strange worlds reside, inhabit, there are hauntings – as are in Forché’s poem ‘Nocturne’ in Blue Hour.

Forché elegy works within the spaces of the “no longer…and the not yet” (Derrida 2006: 221), introducing us to spectral moments, pushing at a future whilst allowing a past to present itself. Forché’s ghosts in ‘Nocturne’ augment omission, silence, a half told narrative.

“The house saw everything as does every house. Hollows walls, staircase/ sorrowing ink. It was the last time” (Forché: 2003: 22).

Inside our houses during lockdown, we hear our voices in the body of a room, in the shiver of a wall. We hear a new world outside, entering the particles of shadows that confinement gifts. We ask ourselves, what happened?

Forche’s ‘Nocturne’ begins with this very question, what happened?

At night we lie in our beds plagued or pleasured, recalling the day like a ghost with a clock in its palms. At night we think, what next? At night, we listen to our futures changing, catch what remains.

“The people of this world are moving into the next, and with them their hours and the ink of their ability to make thought.” (Forche: 2003:19)

Each couplet in ‘Nocturne’ fleets between past and present, between what is said and what is not said, what we hear ourselves as readers and what we are told. The house appears and reappears in Forché’s narrative, each time in a different context:

“His mother on the porch, dressing like a man even then, and the house in the photograph behind her in flames, mother and house.” (Forché: 2003: 20)

Inside us there are many houses. We live inside their imaginings. Inside us their windows open and close. We are bound in their apparitions.