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  • NYS Writers Institute

Video: Carolyn Forché's visit, November 2022

"… in our culture, they’re always asking people right after a tragedy happens,

‘So, how are you going to reach closure? How are you going to put this behind you?’

The fact of the matter is there’s no such thing as closure or putting anything behind you.

There is such a thing as living with it after it happens. And you’ve changed… and your poetry changed…

So that’s where ‘poetry of witness’ came from.”

Carolyn Forché, NYS Writers Institute, November 17, 2022

Poet, translator, memoirist Carolyn Forché, 2021 American Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist for her new collection, In The Lateness of the World, visited the NYS Writers Institute on Nov. 17, 2022, for two events at the University at Albany.

Her books of poetry include Blue Hour, The Angel of History, The Country Between Us, and Gathering the Tribes. Her memoir, What You Have Heard Is True, was published by Penguin Press in 2019. Here is one of her newly published poems.


For Daniel In a café near the entrance to the catacombs you wrote your English versions of poems composed in the voice of a thrush in a cage: winter trees, plane trees, iron benches, bocci in snow. This is where I found you most afternoons: cigarette lit, stack of books, folded-up Le Monde, writing into the past with your oldest pen,

unraveling your script then rolling it up again, music turned back into ink on paper, a symphony floating on the table face-down. I was a young mother pushing a carriage then, the little one trying to free himself (as he now has done), while behind the glass door of an armoire armies of paper soldiers fought themselves, bells ringing like stones through the clouds, an army of graves upright. How to be still as you were, to keep quiet as one language enters another? Leaving everything all usual worlds behind. Because fog is not the same as violin! Fog is flute. And opera in time of war is still sung to the applause of silence. You wrote like a mole in its tunnel dreaming of stars.

First published in The Yale Review, December 2022

In 2013, Forché received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship given for distinguished poetic achievement. In 2017, she became one of the first two poets to receive the Windham-Campbell Prize. She previously visited the NYS Writers Institute in 2003 and 2014.

Peg Boyers led the November 2022 conversation with Forché. Boyers is executive editor of Salmagundi magazine and her poetry collections include Hard Bread (2002), Honey with Tobacco (2007), and To Forget Venice (2014). She teaches poetry workshops at Skidmore College and the New York Summer Writers Institute.


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