While reading Carolyn Forche's poetry in her book The Country Between Us, I often wondered what this woman has gone through while spending her time in El Salvador. She lived in El Salvador during an ugly state: a time when this country was in the middle of a civil war and bloodshed. All those acts of cruelty that she faced and so clearly wrote about must have been troublesome on her heart. And now thanks to her we can understand a piece of history and the cruelty of mankind through her poems. These poems that strike interest in our minds, would seem as if they would still strike fear in hers. That is, to overcome those terrible memories would take a lifetime, if that were even conceivable. But in her final poem of this book she suggests that these unforgettable details can possibly be put aside. This poem she dedicates to Terrence Des Pres, someone who also has gone through similar tragedies and titles it "Ourselves Or Nothing." The experiences they had and endured, Terrence Des Pres and Carolyn Forche, in turn, allowed Forche the stamina and fortitude which she encouraged within Des Pres, and thus dedicated her writing to him.
Terrence Des Pres was a friend of Carolyn Forche's. He too was an author that wrote great contemporary poetry, the most significantly a poetic work called The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps. He had written this literary novel upon witnessing the tragedies occurring during the Holocaust of World War II, an event that we understand to be one of the most inhumane and gruesome events of human recollection. The Holocaust intrigued him and captured his mind and soul. Besides completion of his novel he taught at Colgate University a literature course on the Holocaust. And from his experiences, as summarized of Des Pres in the Triquarterly Fall 1996, he taught students of what he repeatedly called the "dark times" of 20th-century political life. But all these experiences he faced, and the constant reminder of them carried a great price. He drank a lot, especially as his work on the Holocaust grew more harrowing. It is noted, once while writing his book he thought he was having a heart attack, but he was medically fine; instead his memories of the Holocaust had been squeezing at his chest causing psychosomatic symptoms.