“Poetry is what maintains our capacity for contemplation and difficulty,” says Carolyn Forché. Known as a “poet of witness,” Forché travels to complicated terrains—both literally and metaphorically—and lives there in difficulty, in contemplation.
After her first collection, Gathering the Tribes (1976), won the Yale Series of Young Poets Award, Forché received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship to travel to El Salvador, where she worked as a human rights advocate. Her experiences there formed the basis for her second collection of poems, The Country Between Us (1982), which received awards from the Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Society of America.
Forché’s exquisite attention to the world has been realized not only through her own writing, but through her efforts to bring others to light. She is the editor of Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness (1993), an anthology of poets from around the world who “endured conditions of extremity during the twentieth century.” She has also translated works by Salvadoran-exiled poet Claribel Alegria and Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. For her work as a poet, translator, and activist for social and political change, Forché recently received the Edita and Ira Morris Hiroshima Foundation Award for Peace and Culture.