Carolyn Forché was born in Detroit; her father was a tool and die maker, while her mother was a journalist. She studied both international relations at Michigan State University and creative writing at Bowling Green State University. From 1978-1980 she worked as a reporter and human rights activist in El Salvador; "The Colonel" describes a meeting with a Salvadoran military officer. She went on to spend time in South Africa. She has thus been interested both in the impact of U.S. diplomacy and in local revolutionary movements. In addition to her poetry, she has done translations and edited a groundbreaking international anthology about political oppression, Against Forgetting (1993). She teaches at Georgetown University.