“Talking Diamonds” proves to be a fitting title for Linda Nemec Foster’s latest collection of poetry as the poems within sparkle with brilliance.
Honored as a finalist in ForeWord Magazine’s 2010 Book of the Year Award in Poetry, “Talking Diamonds” is arguably Foster’s strongest collection yet — quite a feat for Grand Rapids’ former poet laureate, who adds this, her ninth collection of poems, to her lengthy list of literary accomplishments.
“This was such a labor of love for me, to do this particular book,” Foster said. “When I was putting the manuscript together, I was thinking, ‘There are a lot of dark poems here — about death, my mother’s dementia.’ … Whenever I hear reactions, it makes me feel so good, because it was a challenge to put the book together, some of the poems were not easy to write.”
Although Foster rightly describes the collection as dark, the warmth of her works brings light to the darkness. The poetry here is emotional and moving, the way Lake Michigan moves, slowly and gracefully, a blend of cool swirls bearing shimmers of sunlight.
Among her best here is “Red Amaryllis, 1937,” named for the title of a painting by Georgia O’Keefe and representative of Foster’s gift for ekphrastic writing.
Written for a friend who died 15 years ago, the poem details a real-life experience in which her friend accepted an exotic dancer’s request to dance for him by taking her hand and leading her in a waltz.
The poem for which the collection was named, “Talking Diamonds,” is a pensive piece, bearing a sense of rebirth and desire to be extraordinary:
“They know every facet of their brilliance began as mere/coal — a mere dark fist waiting/for a chance to be something other than ordinary.”
In the final words of the poem, it is revealed that not just diamonds underground become greater than they are, but so do we in the human realm, who similarly wait to awaken.
Filtering through the collection are glimmers of Foster, herself. Although “Talking Diamonds” is filled with poems for people in her life and works of art that served as inspirations for her poems, we still see the artist standing beside the finished work.
“I Enter my Mother’s Dementia” explores her relationship with her mother, through mention of the present and a reflection back to 1974. “The Third Secret of Fatima” reveals her Catholic background (Foster is an Aquinas College alumna).
Another glimpse of the artist here is reminiscent of her book, “Amber Necklace from Gdansk.” We see pieces of amber scattered throughout this newest collection, a reminder of Foster’s rich, Polish heritage.
Even longtime devotees of Foster’s will close the cover of “Talking Diamonds” impressed by how sharply the local poet has honed her craft.
Her works here are exceptional and gleaming, serving as a reminder that even experts can excel beyond their own greatness.
“I chose every word. Every word is meant to be there,” Foster said.
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