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The Angel of History

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  630 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Placed in the context of twentieth-century moral disaster--war, genocide, the Holocaust, the atomic bomb--Forche's ambitions and compelling third collection of poems is a meditation of memory, specifically how memory survives the unimaginable. These poems reflect the effects of such experience: the lines, and often the images within them, are fragmented discordant. But rea ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published February 3rd 1995 by Harper Perennial (first published 1994)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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Diane S ☔
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A book of poetry, fragmented, evocative, powerful, imsges I find impossible to forget. Dark, so dark, a compilation of thoughts on the disasters, horrific events of the twentieth century. The Holocaust, the atomc bomb, the body dumps in El Salvador, Beruit, so many. Memory, how it survives the unimaginable, allowing the living to continue on, to survive what is unsurvivable.

A white dress in a closet, a hand carrying white tulips, a child's Bible, holding roses in a cemetery, stained glass window
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20-ce, war, fascism, genocide, us, poetry
Carolyn Forché was a poet I never got around to reading. She was always in my backlog. Why? Then I slowed down a bit and she produced the superb memoir What You Have Heard Is True. Now all her work lies before me like a gift. I’m so grateful. It’s remarkable.

The poems touch on war-wracked landscapes—East Berlin, Prague, El Salvador, Hiroshima. The living, such as they are, are adrift and suffering in the wake of atomic bombings, totalitarian repression, genocide. I’m a little reminded of the po
christopher leibow
Mar 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The Angel of History was remarkable and astonishing. It’s fragmentary structure is something that I have attempted since ready some essay’s by Heather McHugh and I think this is a wonderful example of tying fragmentary pieces of history into a loose narrative that peeks out enough to catch a glimpse and be carried along. The fragmentary form is an appropriate vehicle considering the topic of history itself and the violent history of the twentieth century. The opening epigraph from Water Benjamin ...more
Jul 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book succeeds at the polyphonic, fragmented lyric where so many books fail. Why? Perhaps, this is too simplistic, but I think it's because she maintains the integrity of each line. The lines are clear, haunting, and epigrammatic. The fragments arise between sections and "stanzas" and within perspectives and times not within the lines and phrases themselves. This integrity is the foundation for me and gives the "pile of debris" its intensity. Some such lines I will carry around for many year ...more
Oct 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A truly great book. It is interesting to compare this to another book I recently read, C. D. Wright's Rising, Falling, Hovering. Forche creates this argument against war by directing her anger at an indisputably despicable war: World War II. But what I admire so much is that the poems seem to exist outside of time, as in this speaker couldn't possibly be alive at all the times she implies she is. Yet even in this vague chronology what is obvious is the impact war has on history and on people try ...more
Dec 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I discovered Forche through her translations of dissident Claribel Alegria. She is always difficult, probing and challenging. I like to dig and her poetry requires patience and a love of the convoluted linkages in the history of emotional reality and physical reality.
Steven Godin
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry

In the night-vaulted corridors of the Hôtel-Dieu it is winter.
If a city, ruin, if an animal, hunger.
If a grave, anonymous.
If a century, this.

Are the present hundred years a long time? But first see whether a hundred years can be present.
Jul 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry-favorites

And so we revolt from silence with a bit of speaking.

I love this book. I love Forche's voice in general, its quiet refusal to remain quiet.

Mattea Gernentz
Aug 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"And so we revolt against silence with a bit of speaking. / The page is a charred field where the dead would have written / "We went on." And it was like living through something again one could not live through again. / The soul behind you no longer inhabits your life: the unlit house / with its breathless windows and a chimney of ruined wings / where wind becomes an aria, your name, voices from a field, / And you, smoke, dissonance, a psalm, a stairwell" (68).

How was this gem only $1.50 at McK
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, poetry
A beautifully written meditation on what remains after war and loss, remembrance and what's forgotten. It can be difficult to read at times, dealing with grief and the horrific, but it's beautiful and transcendant. Highly recommended.
Mar 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Angel of History is a unique collection of poetry in five parts, where the poet steps in to the lives of those devastated by war and oppression and writes through their lives.

For the most part, the poetry is very effective. It would have been helpful for someone not as fluent in French as perhaps she should be to have footnotes instead of notes in the back of the book to assist with translation but never mind. Also, a lot of lines are lifted and rightly attributed to other writers and notab
David Clark
Feb 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books of poetry ever.
Jul 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Possibly my favorite book of poetry.
(read for Loft Mentorship Program 2012-2013)

"Surely all art is the result of one's having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end." (19)
Joanna Eleftheriou
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous, haunting, important.
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Evocative and powerful.
May 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Deep and big. Wonderful language...
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Joseph Knecht, Magister Ludi, in Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, says,
“Well now, every experience has its element of magic. . . .
I discovered Schubert's spring song, “Die linden Lüfte sind erwacht,” and the first chords of the piano accompaniment assailed me like something already familiar. Those chords had exactly the same fragrance as the sap of the young elder, just as bittersweet, just as strong and compressed, just as full of the forthcoming spring. From that time on the association of
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: quarterly-lit
I had mentioned to my boyfriend that I was reading this, and he said, "I always thought of poetry as something to be sipped". However, in this case, I think it really does need to be gulped -- the polyphonic nature woven throughout the different poems really did seem to work best as a whole. Perhaps, if I were more of a poetry person, I would go back and do a slower, more spaced-out reading.

I'm not a poetry person, though. I should never be allowed to read poetry (and honestly, shouldn't even p
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Oops. Everyone loves this book but me. I can see why it's powerful- it certainly is evocative. But man. This is DARK AF. Are there any happy poems in general? Certainly not in this slim but bleak volume.

Do not read unless you're cool with imagery of a deceased pregnant woman's body being cut open to have a severed head stuffed inside.

Definitely wasn't ready for that one.
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"The sparks from this fire hiss out among the stars and in thirty years appear as tracer sounds.

They didn't want you to know the past. They were hoping in this way you could escape it."

-Carolyn Forché
Tony Snyder
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Jarring, elegant, and stunning in its beauty in the midst of abject terror, this collection shows us a way to speak about the unspeakable and continue living in the world of our everyday reality.

Ann Michael
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I just re-read this book, and I think these poems are as relevant and heart-breaking as they were when the collection first came out. Of Forche's books, this is by far my favorite.
Germaine Irwin
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Very different poetry for me and while it isn’t my favorite, it was surprisingly good.
First read: June 25, 2019, Tuesday
Dec 31, 2019 rated it did not like it
I think I may need to create a "Pretentious Shit" shelf so I have a place to put this. Gah.
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Haunting, gorgeous and evocative. Images linger in my mind and lines hover at the edges of my consciousness. I will buy this and add it to my classroom library.
Jul 30, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: feel sad and righteous
Shelves: poetry
I didn't want to like this book and still feel like there are one too many intolerably "important" sounding statements--but her eye for the small details and her ability to translate thes into images allows her to convey a sense of a landscape affected by war that is still human enough to believe and relate to and just broken enough to startle.
Jennifer Lavoie
Part of my difficulty with reading this was my lack of understanding at certain parts. I could clearly pick out sections on the Holocaust and Hiroshima as they are subjects I teach. I understood that imagery and the horrors presented. However other sections left me puzzled.

It will be interesting to see how my perspective of this work changes as I learn more about the events depicted.
Dec 09, 2007 rated it liked it
i read these carolyn forche books during the hardest working winter of my life.
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Carolyn Forché was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1950. She studied at Michigan State University and earned an MFA from Bowling Green State University. Forché is the author of four books of poetry: Blue Hour (HarperCollins, 2004); The Angel of History (1994), which received the Los Angeles Times Book Award; The Country Between Us (1982), which received the Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay di C ...more

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