Carolyn Forché

Carolyn Forché's politically engaged work redefines lyric poetry through its attention to history and care for the world.

A native of Detroit, Michigan, Carolyn Forché is the author of five books of poetry, including In the Lateness of the World (2018). Her many honors include a Los Angeles Times Book Prize (1994), a James Laughlin Award (1981), and the Yale Younger Poets Prize (1976). Over the course of her long career Forché has come to believe that a keen attentiveness to historical, political, and social forces enriches literary art, as well as making it a powerful site of resistance. Her ground-breaking anthologies collect what she calls “poetry of witness,” and her own work illuminates some of the darkest moments in twentieth century history, including the Holocaust, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Salvadoran Civil War. Shifting between past and present, life and death, individual and nation, hope and devastation, Forché’s verse seeks out the place where the personal and the political converge—the place where, to borrow the refrain of The Angel of History (1994), a poem can become “a memory through which one hasn’t lived.” Forché is also Professor of English and Director of the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University, and has been recognized for her extensive work as an editor, translator, and human rights activist.

I’m elated at the wonderful and most unexpected news of this prize, with its blessing of freedom and time, and the recognition that what I have set to paper has worth, not only for itself but for the world. I’m filled with gratitude, and most especially moved by the founders’ compassion toward their fellow writers. Thank you. My writerly solitude is now full of light. CAROLYN FORCHÉ