Horses were turned loose in the child's sorrow. Black and roan, cantering through snow.
The way light fills the hand with light, november with graves, infancy with white.
White. Given lilacs, lilacs disappear. Then low voices rising in walls.
The way they withdrew from the child's body and spoke as if it were not there.
What ghost comes to the bedside whispering You?
--With its no one without its I--
A dwarf ghost? A closet of empty clothes?
Ours was a ghost who stole household goods. Nothing anyone would miss.
Supper plates. Apples. Barbed wire behind the house. What?
Christopher Nelson: When you consider your four books of poetry, what has remained constant and what has changed?
Carolyn Forché: My obsessions have remained constant and my formal investigations have changed. Certain readers tell me that they discern in each book the seeds of the next one. They see a trajectory in ways that I don’t; it isn’t as obvious to me. I experience each book as a departure from past work. If I consider the four of them—(and there are only four; I publish one book every decade)—I think there are obsessions that drift from book to book and that are amplified over time. Probably those have to do with the problem of good and evil [laughter], the experience of extremity and how language is marked by extremity, history, legibility, and in recent years, an exploration of the elegiac. When I look back I see that elegy has always interested me because of the circumstances of my life and perhaps my cast of mind and the leanings of my imagination—I don’t think we really know why: that’s a personal puzzle that needs assembled over the course of a lifetime.
poet, translator and anthologist, Carolyn Forche has become the poet of her
generation most strongly identified with political protest, social conscience,
and, in her own phrase, "the poetry of witness."As such, she can be seen in the
tradition of poets like Robert Bly and W.H. Auden, who filled similar roles for
their generations. Also like Bly and Auden before her, Forche has always
maintained her reputation as a poet, not a purveyor of agitprop. Though reviews
of her books appear in political magazines almost as often as literary
magazines, even in those reviews her aesthetics receive as much attention as her