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Poetry of Witness

The Tradition in English, 1500-2001

Carolyn Forché (Editor), Duncan Wu (Editor)

Overview | Inside the Book
 

A groundbreaking anthology containing the work of poets who have witnessed war, imprisonment, torture, and slavery.

A companion volume to Against Forgetting, Poetry of Witness is the first anthology to reveal a tradition that runs through English-language poetry. The 300 poems collected here were composed at an extreme of human endurance—while their authors awaited execution, endured imprisonment, fought on the battlefield, or labored on the brink of breakdown or death. All bear witness to historical events and the irresistibility of their impact. Alongside Shakespeare, Milton, and Wordsworth, this volume includes such writers as Anne Askew, tortured and executed for her religious beliefs during the reign of Henry VIII; Phillis Wheatley, abducted by slave traders; Samuel Bamford, present at the Peterloo Massacre in 1819; William Blake, who witnessed the Gordon Riots of 1780; and Samuel Menashe, survivor of the Battle of the Bulge.

Poetry of Witness argues that such poets are a perennial feature of human history, and it presents the best of that tradition, proving that their work ranks alongside the greatest in the language.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • January 2014
  • ISBN 978-0-393-34042-6
  • 6.2 × 9.3 in / 672 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“The selections are blazing and haunting, poems of fierce precision, communal consciousness, courage, and reverberating beauty, and Forché and Wu succinctly establish the historical context for each poet’s work in glinting biographical essays.” — Donna Seaman, Booklist, Starred Review

“[A] testament to the travails of men and women over the last 500 years, collected and curated with infinite care.” — Valerie Ryan, Shelf Awareness

“Argues for the importance of a public-spirited poetry, willing to speak the truth to power.” — Robyn Creswell, The New Yorker

Also by Carolyn Forché All

  1. Book CoverAgainst Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness

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