An Influential Poet

In honor of National Poetry Month, I’d like to introduce those of you who aren’t familiar, to a poet I greatly admire and who has in many ways influenced my writing.

Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1950, poet, teacher and activist Carolyn Forché has witnessed, thought about, and put into poetry some of the most devastating events of twentieth-century world history. An articulate defender of her own aims as well as the larger goals of poetry, Forché is perhaps best-known for coining the term “poetry of witness.” In her ground-breaking anthology, Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness (1993). In 1998 in Stockholm, she received the Edita and Ira Morris Hiroshima Foundation for Peace and Culture Award for her human rights advocacy and the preservation of memory and culture.

In 2015 I was fortunate in having the opportunity to not only meet but also learn from such an inspirational poet. While attending her workshops and listening as she spoke about what she’d witnessed while spending two years (1978-1980) in El Salvador investigating how human rights were being abused, left me in awe. I was intrigued by her story telling of the events she witnessed which is in part what has influenced me to write mainly about what I know, by sharing my lived experiences. (Featured in the photo below: Me, author/musician Christian Kiefer and Carolyn Forche).

The following is a brief preview and analysis of Against Forgetting according to “poets.org”.

Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness collects poetry by over 140 poets who, according to the anthology’s editor Carolyn Forché, “endured conditions of historical and social extremity during the twentieth century—through exile, state censorship, political persecution, house arrest, torture, imprisonment, military occupation, warfare, and assassination.” By gathering work that she defines as, “poetic witness to the dark times in which they [the authors] lived,” Forché intended Against Forgetting to reveal the ways in which tragic events leave marks upon the imagination. Even in poems that do not explicitly take historical events as their subject matter, tragedy’s after-image floats beneath the surface of the language.

Against Forgetting is organized according to historical tragedy, starting with the Armenian Genocide and proceeding through the twentieth century to the pro-democratic demonstrations in China. Each section is preceded by a short statement that gives historical background for the events in order to place the poems in a proper context. Within the sections, the poets are organized chronologically according to their year of birth and Forché presents a brief biographical note elucidating the poet’s personal experiences with the historical situation.

Quotes regarding her work:

In the dark times, will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing.
About the dark times.
—Bertolt Brecht

Published by 5thgenerationgirl

Tammy Wynette is a mother of three and a “G-MA” (grandma). Born in Warren, Arkansas, she currently resides in Sacramento, CA and is pursuing an AA degree in English at American River College, with plans to transfer to California State University, Sacramento (Sac State). She is an active leader and role model in her community, she works with teens sharing and teaching poetry, as well as providing insight for young parents to prosper. She has certificate from NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness) and is a trailblazer & Griot, keeper of stories/traditions passed down from her ancestors. As an Author and motivational speaker it’d be an honor to present at your events to inspire, encourage & let our VOICES be heard! She has short stories and poems published in Our Black Mothers Brave, Bold and Beautiful!

29 thoughts on “An Influential Poet

  1. In the darkest times, literature and art bear witness and tell the stories that are shared generations after the tragedies have taken place. That’s why they are so important and that’s why they are often one of the things that dictators try to silence and to burn. But these stories always prevail. 🙏

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    1. Thanks you for this Ab. Lately I’ve been hearing many say, “forget the past, get over it”. Not to me directly, but I never understood the thinking behind that.
      For me personally, I’m not angry about my past nor my ancestors’, I simply want to learn from it & do better for future generations, which happens to be the basic concept of my blog. I certainly appreciate you. 🥰

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  2. Thanks for writing about such a powerful anthology. I wasn’t aware of it. El Salvador is still under attack. The present President, Bukele, put in place by and supported by the US govt. just suspended the constitution, put 6000 in jail (in addition to all the others he has jailed), states he isn’t going to feed them or care for them, is threatening anyone against his govt. etc. The US was behind all the previous slaughter there and has supported and put in place brutal dictators in Central America, South America and African countries. I’m grateful to those who write poetry, are activists and speak out against these crimes and horror. I worked with Central American refugees for over 10 years, doing music, being on the board of a homeless shelter for them, and gave massages to many with horrible scars from torture and one with bullets still in his body. May peace soon preside over the planet, in all forms.

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing this story Queen Tammy, and for the positive influence Carolyn Forché made in your life. She sounds like a remarkable woman/poet/influencer/advocate who helps us understand the fabric of humanity from remnants around the world. Beautiful review! 🤗💖🥰🦋😘💐😊

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    1. I think that’s what I got most out of my experience with her. First not ever being great with geography and simply not understanding how big this world is as a kid. Then my love for the story of Anne Frank & never traveling. She exposed me to something new and it was also the look in her eyes when she spoke to me. I don’t know girl, it’s something I’ll never forget.

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      1. Isn’t it simply amazing how much of an impact people can make on you that can last a lifetime? You can learn so much from people’s stories and experiences. It truly makes you look at the world differently and live passionately. 🌍👏🏼🥰🌺🌎😍🌹😊💖🌏

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    1. It is/ was an amazing read indeed. I say “was” because I had an autographed copy that I loaned out & was never returned. Now if people have an interest in a book on my shelf, they have to read it here, lol.

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