Carolyn Forché

The Academy of American Poets recently announced that Wilkinson College’s Presidential Fellow in Creative Writing Carolyn Forché has been elected its newest Chancellor, a distinction shared by just 120 poets since 1946. Past chancellors have included renowned poets W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Claudia Rankine, and Adrienne Rich.

Forché, born in Detroit, Michigan, is a poet, memoirist, translator, and editor. Her books of poetry include In the Lateness of the World, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and winner of the American Book Award, Blue Hour, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and The Angel of History, which received the Los Angeles Times Book Award.

As Presidential Fellow in Creative Writing, Forché has been leading generative workshops as well as individual conferences for current students and alumni writers of all genres in the Creative Writing and Dual MA English/MFA Creative Writing programs. These three-day, intensive workshops combine generative assignments, critique, and new approaches to revision. Forché leads students through an array of poetic modes, including elegiac, epistolary, enumerative, anagogic, as well as contemporary forms. In addition to in-class writing, Forché offers her guidance to our graduate student writers on the poetic process, composition, revision, sequencing, and the development of the poet’s notebook.

Workshop participant Makena Metz (Dual MA English/MFA Creative Writing) told us of her time in the workshop.”

My experiences in the poetry workshop were illuminating. As someone who has only recently put a toe into the body of water that is the craft of poetry… this workshop pushed me to write poetry that was not in verse or rhyme, and to try forms of free verse that were daunting in their almost limitless-ness. I now look at poetry in a new, different light, that helps me inform other areas of my writing, and has helped me become brave enough to submit poetry for publication. My poem “Arrivals” is being published in the February issue of Brave Voices Lit Magazine and I wouldn’t have had the confidence to submit it without this workshop.

Forché’s residency will continue in the fall. She will begin working with a new cohort of creative writing students and alums, and continue to engage in Wilkinson College’s community of scholarly and creative thinkers, creators, and leaders.

Joy Harjo, current US poet laureate and fellow Academy Chancellor, had the following to say on Forché’s election:

“Carolyn Forché has been an essential American poet of witness throughout the half century since she began publishing poetry. Her lyric, wide-winged poems are far seeing and fierce, even as they are tender, even intimate in her wide cast dream of justice. It is Forché’s bravery that shines through, as she speaks what needs to be spoken no matter the consequences. Her soul-mapping extends to bringing attention to poets around the world who have stood and stand witness to injustice. Her distinguished path is woven of commitment and beauty.”

Forché’s honors also include fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, and the Academy of American Poets. In 2017 she became 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. Her work has been translated into twenty-four languages.

Pictured above: Carolyn Forché (center) standing outside of Smith Hall with current students and alumni of the MFA in Creative Writing program for the Fall 2021 generative workshops.