Forche once remarked, "I had been told that a poet should be of his or her time. It is my feeling that the twentieth-century condition demands a poetry of witness" ("El Salvador" 236). Drawing from a variety of poetic forms (see prosody and free verse), Forche's work revises these forms to suit the 20th-century human condition, mediating the horror of war and its effects on identity and the body. From the elegy and lyric poetry to free verse, Forche's work reflects a profound affinity with poets Anna Akhmatova, Adrienne rich, and Pablo Neruda, among others.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Forche comes from a working-class, Eastern European background with a strong Catholic upbringing; she has been greatly influenced by the historical events of the 1960s, such as the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War. Throughout her poetry, Forche increasingly identifies with an international audience and embodies an ecumenical spirituality, drawing especially from the Kabbalah and Buddhism. Gathering the Tribes (1976) won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. Enabled by a Guggenheim Fellowship, she traveled to El Salvador in 1978, where her experiences produced The Country between Us (1981), which won the Lamont Award from the Academy of American Poets. Her anthology Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness (1993) presents the voices of 145 poets across the globe. The Angel of History (1994) won the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and she received other honors as well.
The search for a communal voice highlights all of Forché's work, as she uses the events of the 20th century to forge connections among individuals and experiences. In "A Lesson in Commitment," Forché submits that "no single voice lifts pure from the cacophony of voices." In her lyric poem "Ourselves or Nothing" (1981), the process of memory acts as the vehicle for connection, manifesting a movement between the lyrical "I" and the communal "we": "I have come from our cacophonous / ordinary lives." As a poet, Forché foregrounds the paradox between a socially conscious intellectual and a solitary poet whose experiences stretch her poetic sensibility.
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