Poet Carolyn Forché will be making not one, but two separate appearances at the Wheeler Theater this Saturday, May 9.
At 3:30 pm, she'll give a craft lecture on The Literature of "Witness." At 7:30 pm, she will give a reading. Both events are free to the public.
Carolyn Forché is the author of four books of poetry. Her first collection, "Gathering The Tribes", won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award.
In 1977, she traveled to Spain to translate the work of exiled Salvadoran poet Claribel Alegría, and upon her return, received a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, which enabled her to travel to El Salvador, where she worked as a human rights advocate.
That work led to her second collection of poems, "The Country Between Us," which described what she personally had experienced in El Salvador during the Salvadoran Civil War. The work established her reputation as a poet who was unafraid to use her voice to bear witness to contemporary events. Published with the help of Margaret Atwood, the book catapulted her to international acclaim.
Her translation of Alegria's work, "Flowers From The Volcano", appeared in 1983. That same year, her book "El Salvador: Work of Thirty Photographers" (for which she wrote the text) was published.
Forché’s anthology "Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness", was published in 1993.
Later, in Stockholm, she was given the Edita and Ira Morris Hiroshima Foundation for Peace and Culture Award, in recognition of her work on behalf of human rights and the preservation of memory and culture.
Her third book of poetry, The Angel of History, came out in 1994. The book won the Los Angeles Times Book Award. Her fourth book of poems, Blue Hour, appeared in 2003.
Forché is particularly interested in the effect of political trauma on the poet's use of language. The anthology was intended to collect the work of twentieth-century poets who had experienced political upheavals including atrocity, rather than poets belonging to any one ideological persuasion. At the same time, Forché believes the sharing of painful experience to be radicalizing, returning the poet to an emphasis on community rather than the individual ego.
Forché is also influenced by her Slovak family background, particularly the life story of her grandmother, an immigrant whose family included prisoners in Ravensbrück and Theresienstadt. Forché was raised Roman Catholic and religious themes are frequent in her work.
Forthcoming books include a memoir tentatively titled "The Horse on Our Balcony". It is, in part, a conversation between Forché and her former student, the poet Ilya Kaminsky, at whose prompting she writes the story of her years in El Salvador, Lebanon, South Africa and France, with forays into childhood and her present life.