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Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness Paperback – May 17, 1993
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“In a class by itself, edited and and introduced with precise passion and Olympian breadth, Against Forgetting encapsulates both the horrors of our century and the power of musical language to make a place to live, breathe, hope, love.” (Calvin Bedient)
“From every continent comes the news that our age is an age of murder and repression on a scale unimagined before. And yet I can't peruse this book without marveling at what beauty these writers have made of the calamity called the Twentieth Century. I would not have thought a poetry anthology could be so stirring.” (Arthur Miller)
Top Customer Reviews
Carolyn Forche has assembled this collection of poems, each of which expresses, in their own time and place, witness. This is not an idle witness, a standing by, a cool, detached observance. Forche writes in her introduction, "Modernity ...is marked by a superstitious worship of oppressive force and by a concomitant reliance on oblivion." The witness of these poets neither worships force nor accepts oblivion.
The effect of reading these poems, written in the face of war, genocide, oppression, despair and racism, even reading one or two at a time as I have been doing, raises the possibility that war, genocide, oppression, despair and racism are abject failures. Whatever their effects, they accomplish nothing. Resistance counts for everything. Pasternak, an included poet, described his novel in words which describe this volume: "besides the importance of described human lots and historical events there is an effort ... to portray the whole sequence of facts and beings and happenings like some moving entireness, like a developing, passing by, rolling and rushing inspiration, as if reality itself had freedom and choice and was composing itself out of numberless varients and versions."
Men and women from every continent give lie in their poems to the sad accusation that 'human dignity' and 'human rights' are 'western' or 'american' ideas imposed on the rest of the world. The oppressors are as likely to be 'western' and 'american' as anyone else. The witnesses "Against Forgetting" are everyone.Read more ›
Each section opens with an introduction to the era and the theme(i.e. "The Holocaust", "Repression in Eastern and Central Europe", "War in the Middle East"), and a very short biographical piece accompanies each poet's selection.
Wislawa Szymborska's "Children of the Epoch" ('We are children of the epoch. The epoch is political...') reflects many of the sentiments expressed throughout the entire volume, and is one of my favorites.
How better to transmit the lessons of culture, of the "political" and "patriotic" (along with their varying definitions) than through poetry?
The selections in this collection have been thoughtfully made and the translations are excellent. Without exception, we have a volume to force us to reflect, to ask ourselves difficult questions. We might not like our answers but perhaps we will have our own poems as well, and our poems will serve as an antidote to forgetting - perhaps they too, will bear witness should we not be able to.
That's exactly what Forche has compiled, here and it should be included in the library of every serious pacifist and/or poet. Sometimes the horrors of war and oppression are too vivid for prose. Only poetry will do.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I am so pleased with this book. Not only did I love the contents of the book but I also was lucky enough to get an inscribed copy with a few notes written by Forche herself. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Nicole
Spurious witness. Acclaimed American poet suffers vicariously by way of oppressed poets everywhere. Read morePublished 13 months ago by CAC
It was probably 1993 when I heard Carolyn Forche' reading from this book at an independent bookstore across from Macalester College in St. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Candice Bradley
I very much wanted to admire this anthology. Conceptually, I thought it could be a much-needed contribution, with the the focus on the witnesses to the horrors of the 20th Century. Read morePublished on August 18, 2014 by Robert Tilewick
Whether you love poetry or history, this is a worthwhile read. Hardly cheerful, but informative, enlightening and deeply moving. Read morePublished on May 14, 2014 by eve
These poems are shattering and beautiful. Anyone with a desire to understand what cruelty and tyranny do to humans - and how art and love can exist despite evil - should buy and... Read morePublished on February 10, 2014 by Kelly Withee
Forche gathered an amazing set of poetry which is beautiful about the ugly things of the world which may be difficult to swallow. Very profound poetry about war and other sufferingPublished on December 18, 2013 by Fazeel Chauhan
I shall enjoy sharing this work with my colleagues and students as we explore complex social issues in our combined literature, history, speech, and writing classes.Published on June 7, 2013 by Gwen Livingstone Pokora