Carolyn Forché selected as Inaugural Darugar Scholar

Carolyn Forché selected as Inaugural Darugar Scholar

Carolyn Forché celebrated the release of her latest collection of poems, “In the Lateness of the World,” on March 10 of last year. The country went into lockdown three days later, throwing her planned readings and book signings out the window along with events planned around the paperback release of her debut memoir, “What You Have Heard is True.” What should have been a year of touring after the launch was instead a year of isolation and virtual readings met with political and social upheaval that is somewhat ironically well-suited to the subject matter of both books.

Carolyn Forché
Carolyn Forché

This not only makes her memoir and poetry “of witness and resistance” all the more prescient for the year 2021, but makes her the perfect inaugural writer for Georgia College’s Dr. and Mrs. Barry Darugar Distinguished Visiting Scholar program. During her time at the university, she’ll embark on an eight-week virtual residency, teaching workshops and meeting with scholars in the English Department’s MFA program.

Kelly Piggott, a second-year MFA student, is one of many students who are excited to have Forché on board, “Carolyn Forché sees the politics in the art, and the art in politics and in the history of the world, in all its complexities, beauties, and ugliness,” Piggott said.

 “So the books are all published at some point of the various crises,” Forché said, “The poetry was written over a period of 17 years so it wasn't written with that in mind. But interestingly, when you read the poetry book, it eerily seems to have been addressing the times that we're in, and I can't explain that. I think it's just something that sometimes happens.”

In 2019, Forché’s memoir was released to great critical acclaim and was a finalist for the National Book Award. The book recounts her visits to El Salvador between 1978 and 1980, during a time just before the country broke out into civil war.

“The events of the memoir took place 40 years ago and it's really a young person's book in that the main character, myself at the age of 27, took a journey. And what I wanted to do was replicate that journey, for others, take them on the same path I took at that age," she said. "It was a journey to a certain kind of opening of consciousness, having to do with the world and our position in it, and having to do with its injustice and political awakening.” 

Dr. Barry Darugar, whose journey into writing began after immigrating from Iran to practice surgery in Middle Georgia for nearly 40 years before entering into GC’s MFA program, created the program to give students similar interactions with contemporary writers as he did with the poet and essayist Robert Bly. On that score, the English Department could not have picked a more immanent poet than Forché.

Piggott, who had the opportunity to meet with Forché virtually during a poetry workshop last semester, said, “she was articulate, well-spoken, good-humored and had wonderful, valuable things to say about the process of writing poetry and its significance as a form of playing witness to the world around us.” Forché’s work has been described by the New Yorker as “chilling and unique.” 

So far, public readings and craft talks have been scheduled, as well as a poetry workshop and a collaborative event with the Andalusia Institute throughout March and April.

“I'm very excited to be working with graduate students in poetry again, which I haven't done in a while,” Forché said.

She teaches a seminar on the convergence of human rights and literature for the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at the Department of English at Georgetown University, which has gone entirely virtual during the pandemic.

“I’ve been very impressed the more I’ve learned about the Georgia College program. It's set up the right way. It's fully funded for all of the students who enroll, for one thing. So they're able to attract the best students, they're able to support them well and that's really the way to do it!”