Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness


Bearing witness to extremity—whether of war, torture, exile, or repression—the volume encompasses more than 140 poets from five continents, over the span of this century from the Armenian genocide to Tiananmen Square.

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Bearing witness to extremity—whether of war, torture, exile, or repression—the volume encompasses more than 140 poets from five continents, over the span of this century from the Armenian genocide to Tiananmen Square.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This large volume assembles the work of nearly 150 poets, all marked in some direct way by the century's wars or devastations. Many of the poets did not survive these conflicts--some painfully perfect works by the Hungarian Miklos Radnoti were exhumed with his body from a mass grave in 1946--and others survived only to commit suicide later on. As an anthologist, poet Forche The Country Between Us vows to present a ``poetic memorial to those who suffered and resisted through poetry itself,'' rather than to propose a ``canon'' of their works, but her book honors both intentions. Apart from the voices' high moral ground, the common preference for laconic understatement is notable; objectified horrors seem to expunge any bent toward self-pity or sententiousness. Forche's attempt to avoid a Eurocentric collection is limited by what is available in a ``quality translation''; only two Asian poets both Chinese are featured, and among the several African poets included here, all but one Afrikaans poet Breyten Breytenbach write in English. She generally chooses recent and fresh-sounding translations John Felstiner's rendering of Paul Celan's ``Death Fugue,'' for example, is boldly effective. Poets are grouped in association with their respective historical focal points--e.g., the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, and 13 others. Mar .
Zom Zoms
Once read, the poems in this very moving anthology will not soon be forgotten. Together, they shed a harsh light as they witness the madness humanity has wrought upon itself during the course of this century. Editor Forche has accomplished an important task in assembling them into a collective voice speaking for individuals whose own suffering voices too often went unheard. Even now, still, at the tail end of a century in which, Forche says, "monstrous acts have come to seem almost normal," it is sobering to see the darker side of humanity through a poet's personal lens as it focuses upon genocide in Armenia, the years of European fascism, even the dark streets of our own United States. These spectators to modern horror span the century and include Edward Thomas and e. e. cummings observing World War I; Akhmatova, Pasternak, Brodsky, and Ratushinskaya watching the Bolshevik revolution and its long wake; Garcia Lorca and Auden on the Spanish civil war; Pound, Brecht, and a few dozen more witnessing the second world conflagration; and many more right up to Soyinka and Breitenbach on South Africa's freedom struggle, Bei Dao and Duoduo on China's.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393033724
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/15/1993
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 500

Meet the Author

Carolyn Forché, poet, translator, and activist, teaches writing at George Mason University. She has published two award-winning volumes of poetry, Gathering the Tribes and The Country Between Us. In 1990 Ms. Fourché received a Lannan Literary Award, granted to poets and writers of literary excellence "whose work promotes a truer understanding of contemporary life."

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