In her first collection, Gathering the Tribes, Carolyn Forché recounts the experiences of her youth and maturation, focusing on places and people of importance to her development. She writes of her grandmother and Michigan but also of Teles Goodmorning (a Pueblo Indian) and the Southwest, claiming a spiritual kinship. Her second volume, The Country Between Us, is marked by a similar emphasis on places and people, but this time, the place is often El Salvador or Czechoslovakia and the people are victims of oppression.
Her first collection charts the growth of a child entering adulthood, and the second completes the process, chronicling the development of a social conscience with an emphasis on commitment and responsibility. Criticized for being an activist poet, Forché counters, “There is no such thing as a nonpolitical poetry.” Her belief that “we are, as a species, now careening toward our complete destruction with ever-greater velocity” explains her political involvement and her commitment to speak out.
Gathering the Tribes
In Gathering the Tribes, Forché links the process of her maturation to the influence of specific people and places. These poems display a strong sense of place, whether it be the Michigan of her childhood, the Wakhan region of northern Afghanistan, or the Pueblo villages of New Mexico. However, there is also a strong sense of dislocation: Her Slavic ancestors left...
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