Carolyn Forché Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Carolyn Forché (fohr-SHAY) has provided translations of the poems of Central American writers Claribel Alegría (Flowers from the Volcano, 1982; Sorrow, 1999) and, working with William Kulik, Robert Desnos (The Selected Poems of Robert Desnos, 1991). In addition, she wrote the text for a series of photographs of El Salvador, covering the period from 1979 to 1982, in El Salvador: The Work of Thirty Photographers (1983). Her essays, reviews, and poems have appeared in major publications, including The New York Times Book Review, Atlantic, Ms., American Poetry Review, The New Yorker, Antaeus, and Virginia Quarterly Review. Forché edited the influential anthology Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness (1993) and coedited Writing Creative Nonfiction: Instruction and Insights from Teachers of the Associated Writing Programs (2001) with Philip Gerard. She translated and edited the collection by Mahmoud Darwish, Unfortunately, It Was Paradise: Selected Poems (2003), with Munir Akash.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Carolyn Forché’s poems focus on people—her ancestors, her childhood friends, Native Americans, and Salvadorans, to name a few—and emphasize place— often Detroit, the Southwest, or Central America. Her commitment to speaking for those who have been silenced, whether for economic, ethnic, racist, or political reasons, has won for her many readers and much critical acclaim. Her first book, Gathering the Tribes, concerning a girl’s initiation into adulthood, was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets in 1975. Her second, The Country Between Us, concerning a young woman’s development of a social conscience, was the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets (1981) and won the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award. The commitment to politics that surfaced clearly in the second volume is also evident in El Salvador and in many of her essays. She has received numerous awards for her poetry and various fellowships, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1977) and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (1978). She received the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry in 1990 and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for poetry in 1994 for The Angel of History. Forché also won the Edita and Ira Morris Hiroshima Foundation for Peace and Culture Award for 1998, which was presented to her in recognition of her work on behalf of human rights and the preservation of memory and culture. Forché’s Blue Hour was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2003 and a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize of 2004.

Forché has been a member of several literary organizations, including the International Association of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, and Novelists (PEN) and the Academy of American Poets, and of political and government groups such as Amnesty International, the Institute for Global Education, and the Commission on United States-Central American Relations. The poet and professor has accepted invitations to judge literary contests, reading for such competitions as the Discovery/The Nation’s Joan Leiman Jacobson Poetry Prize of 2002.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Bedient, Calvin. “Passion and War: Reading Sontag, Viola, Forché, and Others.” Salmagundi 141/142 (Winter, 2004): 243-262. Bedient examines how war is treated by several writers and offers a close reading of Blue Hour.

_______. “Poetry and Silence at the End of the Century.” Salmagundi 111 (Summer, 1996): 195-207. Bedient compares The Angel of History to Charles Wright’s Chickamauga (1995) and T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922).

Bogan, Don. “The Muses of History.” The Nation 24 (October, 1994): 464-469. This brief but careful reading of The Angel of History attends to its structure and tone. Bogan sets Forché’s work alongside James Fenton’s collection Out of Danger (1994).

Doubiago, Sharon. “Towards an American Criticism: A Reading of Carolyn Forché’s The Country Between Us.” American Poetry Review 12 (January/February, 1983): 35-39. Doubiago faults other critics who have no tolerance for a political message in poetry and suggests that any aesthetic has a political basis. She argues that Forché’s work points to the need for “a new poetic ethic.”

Forché, Carolyn. Interview by David Montenegro. American Poetry Review 17 (November/December, 1988): 35-40. Forché discusses a...

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