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The Country Between Us

The Country Between Us

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The Country Between Us

5/5 (8 évaluations)
64 pages
36 minutes
Mar 28, 2019


Carolyn Forché’s The Country Between Us bears witness to what she saw in El Salvador in the late 1970s, when she travelled around a country erupting into civil war. Documenting killings and other brutal human rights abuses, while working alongside Archbishop Oscar Romero’s church group, she found in her poetry the only possible way to come to terms with what she was experiencing first-hand. By 1980, when the fighting was becoming too dangerous, Archbishop Romero urged Forché to return home, asking her to ‘talk to the American people, tell them what is happening to us. Convince them to stop the military aid.' A week later he was assassinated (and is only now being made a saint). Back in the US, Forché gave readings and talks about US-backed oppression in Central America, but found publishers and critics uncomfortable with the startlingly different poems of her second collection, poems relating to torture, murder, injustice and trauma. When the book appeared in 1981, at a time when the conflict in El Salvador had finally forced its way into public awareness, it won her immediate recognition. Briefly available in Britain from Jonathan Cape in the 1980s, it is now reissued by Bloodaxe to coincide with the publication by Penguin Press in the US of Carolyn Forché’s long awaited memoir of those times, What You Have Heard Is True: a memoir of witness and resistance (with the UK edition from Penguin due later), to be followed by a new collection in 2020, In the Lateness of the World. The Country Between Us has sold tens of thousands of copies on the US, where it has never been out of print. It won the Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, and was the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets.
Mar 28, 2019

À propos de l'auteur

Carolyn Forché is the author of Gathering the Tribes, winner of the Yale Younger Poets Award; The Country Between Us, which received awards from the Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Society of America; and The Angel of History, awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Award. She is also the editor of the anthology Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Centuly Poetry of Witness. Recently she was presented with the Edita and Ira Morris Hiroshima Foundation Award for Peace and Culture in Stockholm. She lives in Maryland with her husband and son.

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The Country Between Us - Carolyn Forche



IN SALVADOR, 1978–80

In memory of Monsignor Oscar Romero

Caminante, no hay camino

Se hace camino al andar.


San Onofre, California

We have come far south.

Beyond here, the oldest women

shelling limas into black shawls.

Portillo scratching his name

on the walls, the slender ribbons

of piss, children patting the mud.

If we go on, we might stop

in the street in the very place

where someone disappeared

and the words Come with us! we might

hear them. If that happened, we would

lead our lives with our hands

tied together. That is why we feel

it is enough to listen

to the wind jostling lemons,

to dogs ticking across the terraces,

knowing that while birds and warmer weather

are forever moving north,

the cries of those who vanish

might take years to get here.


The Island

(for Claribel Alegría)


In Deya when the mist

rises out of the rocks it comes

so close to her hands she could

tear it to pieces like bread.

She holds her drink and motions

with one hand to describe this:

what she would do with so many

baskets of bread.

Mi prieta, Asturias called her,

my dark little one. Neruda

used the word negrita, and it is

true: her eyes, her hair,

both violent, as black

as certain mornings have been

for the last fourteen years.

She wears a white cotton dress.

Tiny mirrors have been stitched

to it – when I look for myself

in her, I see the same face

over and over.

I have the fatty eyelids

of a Slavic factory girl,

the pale hair of mixed blood.

Although José Martí has said

we have lived our lives in the

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8 évaluations / 5 Avis
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Avis des lecteurs

  • (5/5)
    "There is nothing one man will not do to another." With all going on at our southern border, I felt I had to re-read Forche's poems about El Salvador written in 1978-80.
  • (4/5)
    Carolyn Forche was a journalist for Amnesty International and a human rights advocate who spent much time in El Salvador in the ‘70s chronicling the war and the struggles of the people there. Her poetry often combines the personal with the political seamlessly and need several readings to be able to truly appreciate all she puts into her poems. This volume won the Lamont Poetry Prize in 1981. Forche is also the editor of Against Forgetting: Twentieth-century Poetry of Witness, an anthology of poetry of poems from every war in that century. Elena was a friend of Forche whose husband was a journalist who was critical of the government. One evening as the couple came home from a dinner celebrating their wedding anniversary there were government troops waiting for them to gun them down. She was wounded in the mouth and her husband was killed. Elena was scheduled to be executed but there were so many street demonstrations supporting her that she was allowed to go into exile..IN MEMORY OF ELENAWe spend our morning in the flower stalls countingthe dark tongues of bellsthat hang from ropes waitingfor the silence of the hour.We find a table, ask for paella, cold soup and wine, where a calmlight trembles years behind us.In Buenos Aries only threeyears ago, it was the last time his handslipped into her dress, with pearlscooling her throat and bells like these, chipping at the night—As she talks, the hollowclopping of a horse, the soundof bones touched together.The paella comes, a bed of riceand camarones, fingers and shells,the lips of those whose lipshave been removed, musselsthe soft blue of a leg socket.This is not paella, this is whathas become of those who remainedIn Buenos Aires. This is the ring of a rifle report on the stones, her hand over her mouth,her husband falling against her.These are the flowers we boughtthis morning, the dahlias tossed on his grave and bellswaiting with their tongues cut outfor this particular silence.
  • (5/5)
    The poems about El Salvador were wrenching. Wonderful poems.
  • (4/5)
    [The Country Between Us] is a book of poetry about man's horrific inhumanity to man from El Salvador to Serbia and beyond, it's affect on the observer as well as the victim, and the impossibility of overcoming it. Much of the imagery was stunning and unique. Excellent but difficult to read.
  • (5/5)
    This book is a river of sadness and strength. Taking as a point of departure the struggles of Latin America, the poet manages to reveal the hurt without taking sides. Deeply political but not divisive.