Arts and Entertainment

Literary series features award-winning poet

Award-winning poet Carolyn Forché will speak Sunday at WICA in Langley. - Photo courtesy of Carolyn Forché
Award-winning poet Carolyn Forché will speak Sunday at WICA in Langley.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Carolyn Forché

Longtime poet Carolyn Forché challenges herself and other artists to find a voice that is true to one’s self.

“I believe that poets’ and writers’ voices should be independent, and they should be courageous and should speak out of their own conviction and sensibilities, and take what comes,” she said.

Islanders will be treated to Forché’s formidable voice in “An Evening With Carolyn Forché,” presented by Whidbey Island Center for the Arts and the Hedgebrook Literary Series at 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13.

Author of four award-winning books of poetry, Forché’s work as a “poet of witness” is revealed not only through her own writing, but also through her work as an editor, translator, teacher and activist.

Forché’s strong interest in social justice has in fact been the focus of her poetry. What resulted is what Forché describes as poetry “written out of conditions of extremity, or in the aftermath of war, exile, imprisonment and other sufferings collectively borne.” Her anthology, “Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness,” embodies that mission.

Filled with poems from the Holocaust, the world wars, the conflicts in Vietnam and Korean, various civil wars and periods of repression throughout the world, the book is an exploration of the process of bearing witness, the power of language and the indelible mark branded onto people and poetry by conditions of extremity.

Forché’s “school of social justice,” as she calls it, was her time spent as a Guggenheim fellow in El Salvador, in the years leading up to the country’s bloody 12-year civil war. ”That was the beginning of my education as a human-rights activist,” she said.

“It happened on the ground, in situ, learning ... it was the most formative experience of my life,” she said.

“[It] informed my poetry; it couldn’t help but do so. I wrote out of my heart and soul in those years.”Afterward, Forché continued to work with social justice campaigns, traveling all over the country reading her poetry and talking to people about what she had seen. Though she did work with specific advocacy groups, she maintained her independence throughout.

Since then, Forché has made her mark at home, as well.

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.

She is a member of Hedgebrook’s Creative Advisory Council and 2007 Hedgebrook fellow.

Forché is the author of four books of poetry: “Gathering the Tribes” (1976), winner of the Yale Younger Poets Award; “The Country Between Us” (1982), winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award and the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets; “The Angel of History” (1994), which received the Los Angeles Times Book Award; and “Blue Hour” (2004). She has also translated the poetry of Claribel Alegria, Robert Desnos and Mahmoud Darwish.

The Hedgebrook Literary Series takes place at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley.

Tickets are $5 each.

Call 221-8268 or visit for more info.

The Hedgebrook Literary Series will continue with playwright Theresa Rebeck coming Wednesday, Feb. 3 and award-winnning filmmaker and novelist Ruth Ozeki coming Wednesday, March 3.

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