Carolyn Forché gives the Poetry Society Lecture, exploring how poets have been shaped by extreme events.
From William Blake, caught up in the Gordon Riots, to Emily Dickinson living through the American Civil War, or Thom Gunn watching his friends die of AIDS, what has been the impact of being an eye-witness to suffering?
Using the work of John MacRae and Isaac Rosenberg who fought on the battlefields of World War I, to dissidents who lived with surveillance, internment and exile - such as Akmatova and Mandelstam, American poet Forché examines poems composed at the limits of human endurance.
Carolyn Forché is Professor of English at Georgetown University, Washington DC, co-editor of the anthologies Against Forgetting and Poetry of Witness. Her collections include Blue Hour and The Angel of History.