Carolyn Forché is the author of five books of poetry, most recently In the Lateness of the World (Penguin Press, 2020), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and also Blue Hour (2004), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Angel of History (1995), winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award, The Country Between Us (1982), winner of the Lamont Prize of the Academy of American Poets, and Gathering the Tribes (1976), winner of the Yale Series of Young Poets Prize.
She is also the author of a prose book, What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance (Penguin Press, 2019), winner of Juan E. Mendez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America and a finalist for the National Book Award. Her anthology, Against Forgetting, has been praised by Nelson Mandela as “itself a blow against tyranny, against prejudice, against injustice.” She was one of the first poets to receive the Windham Campbell Prize from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, and in 1998 in Stockholm, she received the Edita and Ira Morris Hiroshima Foundation for Peace and Culture Award.
She has translated the poetry of Claribel Alegría, Robert Desnos, Lasse Söderberg, Fernando Valverde and Mahmoud Darwish. She has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and in 1990, Lannan Foundation. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She is Distinguished University Professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She lives in Maryland with her husband, photographer Harry Mattison.
She is also the author of the 2019 memoir What You Have Heard Is True (Penguin Random House), a devastating, lyrical, and visionary book about a young woman’s brave choice to engage with horror in order to help others. What You Have Heard Is True was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award. Claire Messud writes, “In this searing, vital memoir, Carolyn Forché at last reveals the dark stories behind her famous early poems: she brings alive the brutality, complexity and idealism of El Salvador in the late 1970s, a time of revolution that echoes all too painfully in the present. What You Have Heard Is True, a riveting and essential account of a young woman’s political and human awakening, is as beautiful as it is painful to read.” And Claudia Rankine notes: “What You Have Heard Is True is as much an enthralling account of a life marked by an encounter as it is a document of a time and place. Carolyn Forche’s urgent and compelling memoir narrates her role as witness in an especially explosive and precarious period in El Salvador’s history. This incredible book shapes chaos into accountability. It marries the attentive sensibility of a master poet with the unflinching eyes of a human rights activist.”
Forché’s anthology, Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness, was published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 1993. In 2014, her new anthology, The Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English, 1500-2001, was published. Her translation of Claribel Alegria’s work, Flowers From The Volcano, was published by the University Pittsburgh Press in 1983. In 2000, Curbstone Press published a new book of her translations of Alegría, entitled Sorrow. In 1983, Writers and Readers Cooperative (New York and London) published El Salvador: Work of Thirty Photographers, for which she wrote the text. In 1991, The Ecco Press published her translations of The Selected Poetry of Robert Desnos (with William Kulik). She co-translated Selected Poetry of Mahmoud Darwish (University of California Press, 2002), from which a chapbook selection had been published by The Lannan Foundation (2001).
In 1998 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 articles and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, Esquire, Mother Jones, and others. Forché has held three fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, and in 1992 received a Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship. In 2013, Forché won the Academy of American Poets Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement. “For her steady gaze into the abyss and for her crafted house of awakened human heavens where she calls us to live,” said academy chancellor Juan Felipe Herrera, “we celebrate and recognize Carolyn Forché and her heroic career: gathering word-by-word embers … to face and save lives. Before they are disappeared.” In 2014 Forche was announced a finalist for the 24th Neustadt International Prize for Literature.
Carolyn Forché is Lannan Visiting Professor of Poetry and Professor of English at Georgetown University, and lives in Maryland with her husband,
Photographer Harry Mattison.