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Carolyn Forché

Carolyn Forché

Carolyn Forché (born April 28, 1950) is an American poet, editor, professor, translator, and human rights advocate.[1] She has received many awards for her literary work.

Carolyn Forché
Born(1950-04-28)April 28, 1950
Detroit, Michigan
United States
Occupationpoet, columnist, essayist, lyricist
EducationMichigan State University
Bowling Green State University


Forché was born in Detroit, Michigan to Michael Joseph and Louise Nada Blackford Sidlosky. Forché earned a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) in Creative Writing at Michigan State University in 1972, and MFA at Bowling Green State University in 1975.[2] She taught at a number of universities, including Bowling Green State University,[3] Michigan State University, the University of Virginia, Skidmore College, Columbia University, San Diego State University and in the Master of Fine Arts program at George Mason University. Forché is a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University,[4] and has received honorary doctorates from the University of Scranton,[5] the California Institute of the Arts, Marquette University,[6] Russell Sage University, and Sierra Nevada College.[7] She was Director of Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice, and held the Lannan Visiting Chair in Poetry at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, where she is now a University Professor.[8] She is co-Chair, with Gloria Steinem, of the Creative Advisory Council of Hedgebrook, a residency for women writers on Whidbey Island.[9] She lives in Maryland with her husband, Harry Mattison, a photographer, whom she married in 1984. Their son is Sean-Christophe Mattison.


Awards and Publications

Forché's first poetry collection, Gathering the Tribes (1976), won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition, leading to publication by Yale University Press.[10] After her 1977 trip to Spain in which she translated the work of Salvadoran-exiled poet Claribel Alegría as well as the works of Georg Trakl and Mahmoud Darwish, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship, which enabled her to travel to El Salvador, where she worked as a human rights advocate. Her second book, The Country Between Us (1981), published with the help of Margaret Atwood, received the Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, and was also the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets. Forché has held three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 1992 received a Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship.[11] Additional awards include the Robert Creeley Award,[12] the Windham-Campbell Prize, the Edita and Ira Morris Hiroshima Foundation Award for Peace and Culture, and the Denise Levertov Award.[8] Her anthology, Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness, was published in 1993, and her third book of poetry, The Angel of History (1994), was chosen for The Los Angeles Times Book Award. Her works include the famed poem The Colonel (The Country Between Us). She is also a trustee for the Griffin Poetry Prize.[13] Her articles and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation,[14] Esquire, Mother Jones, Boston Review,[15] and others.

Her fourth book of poems, Blue Hour, was released in 2003. Other books include a memoir, The Horse on Our Balcony (2010, HarperCollins); a book of essays (2011, HarperCollins); a memoir about her time in El Salvador, What you have Heard Is True (2019, Penguin Press); and a fifth collection of poems, In the Lateness of the World (Bloodaxe Books, 2020).

Readings and Translations

Among her translations are Mahmoud Darwish's Unfortunately, It Was Paradise: Selected Poems (2003), Claribel Alegría's Sorrow (1999), and Robert Desnos's Selected Poetry (with William Kulik, for the Modern English Poetry Series, 1991).[8] She has given poetry readings in France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania, Belarus, Finland, Sweden, Republic of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Libya, Japan, Colombia, Mexico and Canada. Her poetry books have been translated into Swedish, German and Spanish. Individual poems have been translated into more than twenty other languages.

Writing Perspective

Although Forché is sometimes described as a political poet, she considers herself a poet who is politically engaged. After the publication of her second book, The Country Between Us, which included poems describing what she had personally experienced in El Salvador at the beginning of the Salvadoran Civil War, she responded to controversy concerning whether or not her work had become “political,” by researching and writing about poetry written in the aftermath of extremity in the 20th century. She proposed that such works not be read as narrowly “political” but rather as “poetry of witness." Her own aesthetic is more one of rendered experienced and at times of mysticism rather than one of ideology or agitprop. Forché is particularly interested in the effect of political trauma on the poet's use of language. The anthology Against Forgetting was intended to collect the work of poets who had endured the impress of extremity during the 20th century, whether through their engagements or force of circumstance. These experiences included warfare, military occupation, imprisonment, torture, forced exile, censorship, and house arrest. The anthology, composed of the work of one hundred and forty-five poets writing in English and translated from over thirty languages, begins with the Armenian Genocide and ends with the uprising of the pro-Democracy movement at Tiananmen Square. Although she was not guided in her selections by the political or ideological persuasions of the poets, Forché believes the sharing of painful experience to be radicalizing, returning the poet to an emphasis on community rather than the individual ego. In this she was influenced by Terrence des Pres, Hannah Arendt, Martin Buber, Simone Weil and Emmanuel Levinas.[16]

Forché is also influenced by her Slovak family background, particularly the life story of her grandmother, an immigrant whose family included a woman resistance fighter imprisoned during the Nazi occupation of former Czechoslovakia. Forché was raised Roman Catholic and religious themes are frequent in her work.


Citation Linkweb.archive.org[1] Archived January 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Linkwww.poets.org"Carolyn Forché". Poets.org. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Linkwww.english.illinois.edu"Carolyn Forché's Teaching Philosophy". Modern American Poetry. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Linkwww.chapman.edu"Faculty Profile". www.chapman.edu. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Linkwww.scranton.edu"Honorary Degree Recipients | Office of the President | About Us". www.scranton.edu. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Linkwww.marquette.edu"Carolyn Forché | University Honors | Marquette University". www.marquette.edu. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Linkwww.scranton.edu"Honorary Degree Recipients". University of Scranton.
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Linkwww.poetryfoundation.org"Carolyn Forché". Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. 2018-03-26. Retrieved 2018-03-26.CS1 maint: others (link)
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Linkhedgebrook.orgHedgebrook (2014-12-16). "Creative Advisory Council". hedgebrook.org. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Linkwww.placematters.netIn 1991, the writer Steve Cannon named his newly-incorporated multicultural arts organization (which would eventually include a gallery and a literary magazine) A Gathering of the Tribes, acknowledging Forche's inspiration. See http://www.placematters.net/node/1789
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Linkselect.nytimes.comMcDowell, Edwin (September 16, 1990). "Arts Foundation Awards $35,000 to 6 Authors". The New York Times.
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Linkwww.robertcreeleyfoundation.org"About Carolyn Forché". Robert Creeley Foundation. Archived from the original on 2012-03-17. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Linkwww.griffinpoetryprize.com"The Griffin Trust | Trustees". Griffin Poetry Prize. Archived from the original on 2013-09-28. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Linkwww.thenation.com"Carolyn Forché". The Nation. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Linkweb.archive.org[2] Archived May 11, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Linkwww.english.illinois.edu"Carolyn Forché's Life and Career". Modern American Poetry. University of Illinois. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Linkwww.pbs.orgSchur, Joan Brodsky (2002). The Statue of Liberty: For Educators. WETA, 2002. Retrieved on 2013-07-02 from https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/statueofliberty/educators/.
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Link//tools.wmflabs.org/ftl/cgi-bin/ftl?st=viaf&su=2603438Resources in your library
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM
Citation Link//tools.wmflabs.org/ftl/cgi-bin/ftl?st=viaf&su=2603438&library=0CHOOSE0Resources in other libraries
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Citation Link//tools.wmflabs.org/ftl/cgi-bin/ftl?at=viaf&au=2603438Resources in your library
Sep 30, 2019, 4:25 AM