Gathering the Tribes

Carolyn Forché; Foreword by Stanley Kunitz

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September 10, 1976
78 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
ISBN: 9780300019858
Paper

The language and images of Carolyn Forché’s poetry are so closely bound to the natural cycles of the seasons, of generations, of the body’s functioning, that it is surprising to realize how many of her poems deal with uprootedness—hasty emigrations from Czechoslovakia and Kiev, the loss of grandparents and other elders, people leaving and being sent away. But this poetry is not a sentimental celebration of the goodness of nature, and harmony with the world is never something assumed. The harmony Forché seeks goes deeper than simple submission to natural processes or identification with an ethnic group, and it must be fought for with a tenuous faith, the balance that must be found between the ugliness, the harshness of her history—both natural and social—and its intense beauty, is what distinguishes Forché’s poetry, gives it is depth and dimension.

"The Yale Series of Younger Poets remains the most prestigious [of poetry contests]."—Library Journal

"The Yale award, given to first books by poets under forty, has been made every year since 1919 and has become one of the most distinguished poetry awards in the country."—The Writer

"Forché is steeped in a sense of the ritual life of place and people that links the material of her Slovak heritage, the Southwest culture of Taos, the wilderness of the Washington coast and rural British Columbia. The resulting poetry has the strength of chant or incantation. Each word in each line is intense: words of physical presence (pine, mountain, moon, bread, blood) and physical act (chew, carry, work, rise). Emotion is tacit, spirituality is implicit, embedded in the objects of simple existence."—Library Journal

"This 25-year-old poet is a wonder. Winner of the annual Yale Series of Younger Poets competition, she displays here what Stanley Kunitz underscores in his perceptive foreword, an unusual 'love of people, love of place'—and with it a seemingly artless power to 'make words,' to lend a ceremonial aura to the simplest of human activities. Carolyn Forché  works at language, as Kunitz notes, as if it were a lump of dough in her hands. . . . . This poet does not argue but embodies, and her erotic poem 'Kalaloch' is superb."—Publishers Weekly

"Carolyn Forché writes poetry of pellucid honesty. She too explores the paradoxical freedom and constraint bestowed on her through the blood of her forebears. . . . The balanced insight she attains is hard-won, precarious. Her quiet insistence on looking simultaneously at the beautiful and the ugly makes her poetry complex; her technical skill makes it a disciplined art. . . . The voice of American poetry is excitingly alive in [her] writing."—Claire Hahn, Commonweal

"Carolyn Forché's poems give an illusion of artlessness because they spring fromthe simplest and deepest human feelings, from an earthling's awareness of the systematic pulse of creation. The poems tell us she is at home any place under the stars, wherever there are fields or mountains, lakes or rivers, persons who stir her atavistic bond-sense."—Stanley Kunitz

"The title of this year's Yale Younger Poets selection refers to Forché's recall of ancestral and female roots. She explores the remains of her own past, as typified by her Slovak grandmother, and the heritage of America itself (by relating her adventures among American Indians of the Southwest). Forché's language in the narrative poem and several prose pieces is capable of rendering modern split-thinking of the primitive rhythms of Indian Tribes."—ALA Booklist

"[Forché's] work is promising."—Hayden Carruth, New York Times

"Carolyn Forché is concerned with sacramental relationships in her poetry. She allows no differences in making bread, building a dulcimer, 'cutting/ a dead pig into steaks,' making love, milk, and babies. She is conscious of generations. . . . There are two poems here—'This is their fault' and 'Kalaloch'—that are literally celebrations of erotic love, straight and Sapphic. A fine book."—Choice
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