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Carolyn Forche explores writing ‘as an outcry of the soul’ in ‘Poetry of Witness’

Carolyn Forche, co-editor of the anthology “Poetry of Witness,” read Major John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Field.”

Carolyn Forche was deeply affected by her experience in countries at war.

Forche is the co-editor of the new anthology “Poetry of Witness.” When she started collecting poems by writers who had endured warfare, censorship, and other extreme situations, people told her she was collecting political poems. But Forche wanted to look more deeply and “understand the poetry as an outcry of the soul.”

She worked through 500 years of English language poetry featuring the aftermath of “war and upheaval’ and included wartime poets as well as poets less associated with that kind of destruction, like poet Emily Dickinson who lived during the Civil War.

According to Forche, Dickinson “was engaged and effected by a country at war.”

Listen to Forche read Emily Dickinson’s poem “They Dropped Like Flakes.”

Forche says you can feel their experiences when you read the poetry.

“It becomes legible in the poems.”

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