Carolyn Forché

1950 –

On April 28, 1950, Carolyn Forché was born in Detroit. She studied at Justin Morrill College and Michigan State University, and earned an MFA from Bowling Green State University and a PhD from Newcastle University in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, United Kingdom.

A poet, memoirist, translator, and editor, Forché’s books of poetry include In the Lateness of the World (Penguin, 2020), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a winner of the American Book Award; Blue Hour (HarperCollins, 2003), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; The Angel of History (HarperCollins, 1994), which received the Los Angeles Times Book Award; The Country Between Us (HarperCollins, 1982), which received the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award and was the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets; and Gathering the Tribes (Yale University Press, 1976), which was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets by Stanley Kunitz. Her memoir What You Have Heard is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance (Penguin Press/Penguin Random House, 2019) won the Juan E. Mendez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America, and was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award in Nonfiction, a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and a finalist for the James Tait Black Prize in the United Kingdom. She has translated the poetry of Claribel Alegría, Robert Desnos, Mahmoud Darwish, Fernando Valverde, and Lasse Söderberg, among others. She is also the coeditor, with Duncan Wu, of Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English, 1500–2001 (W. W. Norton, 2014) and editor of Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness (W. W. Norton, 1993), praised by Nelson Mandela as “itself a blow against tyranny, against prejudice, against injustice.” 

Forché’s honors include fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Civitella Ranieri Foundation. In 1992, she received the Charity Randall Citation from the International Poetry Forum. In 1996, she was awarded the Hiroshima Foundation Award for Peace and Culture in Stockholm. In 2013, she was awarded the Academy of American Poets Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement. A finalist for the Neustadt Prize in 2015, she became, in 2017, one of the first two poets to receive the Windham-Campbell Prize from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. In 2020, she received the Lannan Award in Poetry from the Lannan Foundation. In 2023, Forché was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Forché’s work has been translated into twenty-four languages. She is a presidential fellow at Chapman University and a university professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. In January 2022, Forché was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.