Poetry Carolyn Forche The Angel of History

ISBN 13: 9780060170783

The Angel of History

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9780060170783: The Angel of History

Carolyn Forch is known as one of the most important contemporary poets. Her first book, Gathering the Tribes won the Yale Younger Poets Award. Her second, The Country Between Us, won both the Lamont Poetry Award and an award from the Poetry Society of America. Although The Angel of History is a departure form her previous books, it contains echoes of both earlier volumes.

Placed in the context of twentieth-century moral disasterwar, genocide, the Holocaust, the atomic bombForch's third collection of poems is a mediation on memory, specifically on how memory survives the unimaginable. The poems reflect the effects of such experience: the lines, and often the images within them, are fragmented, discordant. But read together, these lines become a haunting mosaic of grief, evoking the necessary accommodations human beings make to survive what is unsurvivable.

These are personal poems, poems startling in their honesty and humility, poems that bear witness rather than explain or resolve. Carolyn Forch describes her book in a note to the reader. "The Angel of History is now about experiences. It is for me the opening of a wound, the muffling and silence of a decade, and it is also a gathering of utterances that have lifted away from the earth and wrapped it in a weather of risen words. These utterances issue from my own encounter with the events of this century but do not represent 'it.' The First-person, free-verse, lyric-narrative poem of my earlier years has given way to a work which has desired its own bodying forth: polyphonic, broken, haunted, and in ruins, with no possibility of restoration."

An ambitious and compelling collection, The Angel of History may also be groundbreaking. As poets have always done, Carolyn Forch attempts to gibe voice to the unutterable, using language to keep memory alive, relive history, make tracks in an empty field, and link the past with the future.

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About the Author:

In addition to her two earlier collections of poetry, Gathering the Tribes and The Country Between Us, Carolyn Forché has published most recently the anthology that she edited entitled Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness. She lives in Maryland with her husband and son.

From Publishers Weekly:

Though Forche's ( The Country Between Us ) previous books have been groundbreaking works of political and moral depth, this new volume may be the most remarkable. Ambitious and authentic, The Angel of History is an overarching book-length poem, composed in numbered sections, that invokes the horror of contemporary times in a mode reminiscent of Eliot's "The Waste Land." Much as Eliot's poem refracted WW I, the vacuity of culture and the fragmentation of modern life, Forche considers the Holocaust, Hiroshima and genocide in Latin America--the dismal past that predicates the chaotic present. Her vehicle is the Angel of History, who confronts human cruelty and misery but can do no more than record them, as explained by Walter Benjamin in an epigraph: "The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But . . . the storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward." Though the poetry is powerful, it is not always easily understandable; one must follow the Angel through serpentine lines, a disjointed and oblique nightmare whispered by an indeterminate narrator, and a splintered pastiche that borrows apocalyptic phrases from Elie Wiesel, Kafka, Canetti, Trakl, Char and Valery. But the journey ventured is well worth the occasional wrong turn: Forche has not only created poetry of consummate beauty, but has borne witness to the wounds of our collective history, fulfilling the conviction that "surely all art is the result of one's having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end."
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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