Linda Nemec Foster’s poem featured in the South Florida Poetry Journal

The Simple ABCʼs of How to Survive Anything

Always look before you leap: even if thereʼs nothing there.

Be prepared for the inevitable: and you know what Iʼm talking about.

Carefully tie your shoes: the laces may betray you to the sidewalk.

Donʼt do anything: the need to hold still is essential.

Even if you want to scream, donʼt: you will only upset your lungsʼ definition of work.

Forget about sex: underrated, overrated, it never quite gets its lines right.

Go to the nearest oak tree and climb it: ask the sparrows if theyʼll adopt you.

Have an escape plan: it may not save you but your creative impulse will be forever

Imagine nothing: then crawl into its cave.

Just relax and wait: things will either get better or worse.

Know your friends: their smallest gestures, the ways their hearts hold you.

Learn from your enemies: count every tooth in their mouths, even the ones missing.

Make something youʼve never made before: a black velvet opera cape, a transistor radio, interstellar dust.

Never underestimate the power of NO: the negative can be positive given the right

Outlive your enemies but none of your friends: think about it, itʼs cool!

Play a musical composition only your dead father could appreciate: for example,
a fugue for two harmonicas.

Quit being so silent about your life: even the maple tree in the backyard has a louder

Remember to never forget your feet: donʼt assume theyʼll follow you everywhere.

Sing as if you lived in an alien landscape: your voice as red as Mars, as blue as
Neptune, as opaque as the Horsehead Nebula.

Turn around right now and go in the opposite direction: trust me, it works.

Unwrap the one stone thatʼs been sitting in your heart the longest: feel the weight thatʼs

Verbalize random words that you can toss like a salad: oscillation, popsicle, sea spray,

Walk down to the basement and inspect the damage: if you donʼt have one, start

X marks the spot: of course, you donʼt know what that means; neither do I.

Yodel a Bavarian tune as you re-imagine the history of the twentieth century: horrific and absurd in one long melody.

Zinc, zenith, zephyr, ziggurat, zen, zodiac, zion, zucchini, zygote, zero. Start all over

LINDA NEMEC FOSTER has nine collections of poetry including Amber Necklace from Gdansk (finalist for the Ohio Book Award in Poetry) and Talking Diamonds (finalist for ForeWord Magazineʼs Book of the Year). Her chapbook, Contemplating the Heavens, was the inspiration for jazz pianist Steve Talagaʼs original composition which was nominated for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music. Her new chapbook, The Elusive Heroine: My Daughter Lost in Magritte, will be published in 2017 by Cervena Barva Press.

Originally Published by South Florida Poetry Journal, click here to view article.

Linda Nemec Foster’s poems featured in Streetlight Magazine

Mount Fuji
My friend always wanted to see the mountain
with its eternal snow, but she never
crossed the ocean to Japan. Instead,
she bought a small reproduction
of Hokusai’s “Boy Viewing Mount Fuji”
and hung it on her bedroom wall.
Every morning it greets the daylight:
the boy with his back to her
as he faces the mountain and plays a flute,
his body perfectly balanced on a thick
tree branch that seems to slice
Fuji’s heart with a rugged abandon.
“In another life,” she vows, “I’ll come back
as that flute, the hollow reed content
to be held and hidden in the boy’s hands.”

The Dead
always leave things behind:
gaudy topaz ring of a mother,
silent harmonica of a father,
a favorite uncle’s shot glass,
a forgotten aunt’s bone china.
The list spirals into a litany of
convoluted loss, so it’s really
no surprise when her husband
brings her “a surprise gift.”
The stained fragment of a small
animal’s spine that he found
near the maple tree. Eight perfect
vertebrae aligned like train cars
or a Lego toy her son lost
in the backyard. She remembers
a story overheard at a funeral
in Lansing. How a philosophy
professor stole a thigh bone
from an archeological dig
in Peru, something a young
Inca girl left behind just for him
to find. At least that’s what
his ego whispers in his ear.
But what of the “almost dead,”
what do they leave? The three
girls locked in a house in Cleveland
by a bus driver. Ten years later
and they’re women who finally
escape; they leave nothing.
Fill their bodies with nose studs,
eyebrow rings, stark red and green
tattoos of roses and thorns.
And that arrogant academic
who used the girl’s femur for
a paperweight? He died, too.
The unpublished manuscript
of his life’s work on Nietzsche
collecting dust in a cousin’s attic.

Linda Nemec Foster is the author of nine collections of poetry including Amber Necklace from Gdansk (LSU Press) and Talking Diamonds (New Issues Press). Her work has been published in numerous magazines and journals such as The Georgia Review, Nimrod, Quarterly West, Witness, New American Writing, and North American Review. She has received nominations for the Pushcart Prize and has been honored by the Arts Foundation of Michigan, ArtServe Michigan, the National Writer’s Voice, and the Academy of American Poets. From 2003-05, she was selected to serve as the first Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Foster is the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College.

Six Days: A Creation Myth

The markings of the world:
disc of desert blur,
concentric sphere imagining itself
divided and conquered.
A man’s rusted compass,
a woman’s hint of blue shadow.

The heart as a spiral.
Red path engraved with dates,
postmark of memory.

Math of desire:
addition of “I want”
subtraction of “you want”
caught in the web of signs.
Love’s artifact filled with
whose heaven, whose earth?

How music begins–
captured bird song
blank lines

Connect the letters
to create the garden’s apple
perfect red and its echo.

Stars as necklace
bird as witness
glass as vapor
all embraced
from the beginning.

Originally Published by Issue Ten, click here to view article.

Linda Nemec Foster’s poem, “Dancing with My Sister,” is featured on the Cuyahoga Public Library’s (Cleveland, Ohio) website for National Poetry Month, 2016.

Dancing with My Sister

for Deborah

We’re not talking those crazy Polish weddings
in Cleveland, where we both learned how to dance,
clutching each other’s sweaty hands, galloping
to the Beer Barrel Polka, and trying not to bump
into Uncle Johnnie and his whirling Chicago Hop.

This is now, tonight, in a smoky bar in Detroit
where two women dancing together can scandalize
any pimp within range. Where the hotshot
bartender can mix anything and has the wide eyes
to prove it: bloody mary, wallbanger, a zombie
with a spike of lime that will raise the dead.

Above the crowded dance floor, in the maze
of catwalks, the geek of a lighting man
(who reminds us of every boy in high school
who fast-danced with his hands behind his back)
shines the spotlight right on us. And we glow.

Girl, do we glow. Not for the memory of those
distant high school boys whose faces we can’t
remember. Not for the fluid desire ebbing
around us on the floor and beyond where silent
men sit in the dark. We glow for the raw truth
of Aretha’s voice spelling out RESPECT;
for the way our hair curls down past our shoulders;
for our legs that can outdance any young thing;
for the miracle that we survived our childhoods—
mother’s obsessive cleaning, father’s factory shifts,
the Erwin Street mob of pre-juvenile delinquents.
We glow because we came from the same burnt-out dream
of second-generation immigrants and learned to smile
at the closed mouth of loss and dance, dance, dance.

“Dancing with My Sister” by Linda Nemec Foster from Amber Necklace From Gdansk. Louisiana State University Press, 2001. Used by permission of the author.

Linda Nemec Foster was born in Cleveland and grew up in the cityʼs Slavic Village neighborhood which was illuminated by the orange sky of the factories and steel mills. She is the author of nine poetry collections including Listen to the Landscape (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006) and Amber Necklace From Gdansk (Louisiana State University Press, 2001). Her work has appeared in more than 300 journals – Georgia Review, North American Review, and New American Writing, been translated in Europe, rendered into songs and concert music, and produced for the stage. She has been honored with Pushcart Prize nominations and awards from the Academy of American Poets and the National Writer’s Voice. Foster is the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College.

Originally Published by Cuyahoga Library, click here to view article.

Book review of Ten Songs from Bulgaria by Romanian poet, scholar and translator Monica Manolachi.

(Cervena Barva Press, W. Somerville, MA, 2008)

Linda Nemec Foster is an American poet of Polish ancestry, who has published nine collections of poetry and lives in Michigan. Ten Songs From Bulgaria (2008) is her eighth collection, a chapbook with poems inspired by Bulgarian artist Jacko Vassilev’s black and white photography from the (post-)communist epoch(s) and which inspired Hungarian folk musician Laszlo Slomovits to compose a CD, Cry of Freedom.

Each of the ten ekphrastic poems included in the collection has ten lines and each line has about ten syllables. In them, the poet makes use of the power of the enjambment, moderate repetition and sometimes counterpoint, with the purpose of presenting a reality from elsewhere and the play between past and present, imagination and reality. Several names (Vladimir, Cristo, Stoian and Zlatio Zlatev), the symbol of the dancing bear, the reference to the Balkans and Eastern Europe highlight a geo-cultural framework specific to Bulgaria.

As well as Jacko Vassilev’s dramatic photos, Linda Nemec Foster’s poems depict people “banished from the Garden of Eden”, who find other types of Eden in surreal artistic faith and unusual music and dance. In line with Vassilev’s photos, which illustrate the life of the poor during communism and immediately after, the poems too echo aspects related to the lives of the unfortunate. Inspired by the photographer’s compassion, the poet weaves multivalent stories around moving static pictures and, in contrast with the pictorial project, she sometimes makes the personages speak their own minds. The characters of these poems vary from “he” or “she” to “they”, which conveys a sense of detachment and contemplation, or they are written in the first person singular and sometimes the “I” is combined with “they”, “you” or “she”, which transmits empathy and involvement with a “world as tangible as fog”.

One of the most powerful texts in the book is “The Dancing Bear”, written as a persona poem in which the first person singular is the chained bear, a symbol of tamed nature that breaks its chains of speechlessness by starting to address the onlookers:

Once upon a time, I did not exist

in this frozen pose. Only danced

in your dreams like a myth:

bear of elegant waltz and measured

fox-trot; bear of passionate tango

and manic jitterbug. Now look at me.

Reduced to a muzzle and chain, serenaded

by a fool with a clumsy violin. I refuse

to dance, cannot remember the basic steps.

Music of the forest stuck in my throat.

The poem starts as a fairytale – and there are many of them with and about bears in the world – but ends as a story closer to contemporary man’s attitude to otherness, be it human, animal, natural, cultural etc.  The point of dramatic change placed in the middle, “Now look at me”, signifies a boundary between myth and reality, a door between expectations and fact, between a certain cultural label and truth. It questions the artist’s gaze in a world in which we all watch and are watched and in which those portrayed can more easily talk back. The initial contrast – “I did not exist” / “Only danced” – alludes to the Western imagination of the Orient and is reinterpreted in the second part of the poem as absence, whose phenomenology is subtly instrumented with the verb “to refuse”,  the negation “cannot remember” and the adjective “stuck”. “I refuse / to dance” may stand for a response against stereotypes. Dance does not mean only waltz, fox-trot, tango or jitterbug, all of them related to the urban European and American cultures. The title of the poem reminds us of rural areas and crossroads. Moreover, dancing as a form of body art is indirectly contrasted with the art of writing as opposed to singing or speaking.

The poem is interesting from a gender perspective too. Hunting in general and hunting bears in particular have traditionally been associated with men and their relationship to nature. What Linda Nemec Foster proposes here is a feminine or queer perspective on the same relationship, given that a persona poem implies a mask. Although there is no word in the text which might suggest the bear is anything other than masculine, the fact that the poem was written by a woman casts an intriguing light. What if the dancing bear is a she-bear? Does it make any difference? Of course it does. If chaining and muzzling a she-bear means there will be no more baby bears, then the poem offers a distinct feminine or queer view on understanding and performing wilderness. The empathetic personification suits the object and subject play, in the sense that it projects a dialogic attitude to otherness. Moreover, the underlying meaning of the word “bear” as a verb and its idiomatic expressions suggest a whole complex universe in itself.

The poem also speaks about America and its wilderness, by alluding to the mythical bear portrayed by William Faulkner. It represents a return to nature, as both environmental and human, and a possible internalization of the old Ben (from The Bear, a short story included in the collection Go Down Moses) as a cultural symbol of freedom and untamed nature, here transposed in an Eastern European geographical location. Giving voice to a bear also hints at the contemporary futility of giving voice to others, when, in fact, they came equipped with a voice, but the inability of others to hear them often translates as deliberate silencing. In the bear’s refusal to dance or to sing, the poet represents a reality waiting to be discovered.


Monica Manolachi is a lecturer at the University of Bucharest, where she teaches English in the Department of Modern Languages and where she completed her doctoral thesis, Performative Identities in Contemporary Caribbean British Poetry, in 2011. Her research interests are American, British and Caribbean literature and culture, postcolonial studies and contemporary Romanian and Eastern European literature in translation. As a poet, she has published two collections in Romanian and was awarded a prize for poetic eloquence by the American Cultural Center in April 2005. She is also a translator and editor, contributing to the multilingual literary magazine Contemporary Literary Horizon.

Originally Published by Galatea Resurrection 25, click here to view article.

Linda Nemec Foster’s poem featured in Duende, the literary journal of Goddard College.

The Talent of Knowing

by Linda Nemec Foster

“My life hasn’t run out yet.”
— Keith Richards

I’m watching Mick Jagger’s jagged face—as big as a five-story
tenement building—at an IMAX theater showing Scorsese’s film,
Shine a Light. And I get tired just watching this guy—
older than me—methodically strut around the stage and dry
hump the audience. Back and forth, back and forth.
And that’s when I think of you, dear friend, who’s been dead
for over twenty years. Not as long as Brian Jones, but hey,
the years are creeping up on all of us. And I remember
your bigger-than-life-size poster of Mick by your bed. His thin,
tense body on stage, wrapped in sweat. Almost nothing else.
You envied that look of defiance, the petulant lips. Blasted
“You Can’t Always Get Want You Want” so loud, you swore
the vinyl almost buckled from the sound waves as you mouthed
the gritty lyrics about the woman, the bleeding man,
the deception, the blood stains on her hands. You know the rest.
Another paradigm for the ex-wife, you told me in a noisy bar.
But as much as you craved Mick’s swagger, it was the silent,
elusive, almost invisible Charlie Watts you really wanted
to channel. The way he looks at Jagger on stage.
The almost sarcastic grimace that says: I know that you know
that I know you’re a fake. Nothing more than a bloke
who let his classes at the London School of Economics
go to his head. And now look at you. You’re nothing but
fucking Mick Jaggerthat’s all. That’s what you tell me
Charlie Watts is really thinking when he’s banging on the drums,
sitting there, lips pursed, behind Mick and the boys.

When Scorsese’s movie cuts from the 2006 concert stage to old
black and white film clips of the Stones in their early days,
it’s the interview with a young Charlie Watts that I know
you’d love. When asked what he’d do if he wasn’t in the band,
he said he’d be a designer—not an artist—a designer because
he’s “not versed in the talent of knowing.” A polite way to say:
a failure of the intellect, a failure of the imagination.
As if he was mouthing your words in 1974, after the wife left
with your best friend. (“How could I not see it coming? How
did I miss that?” you said. “I must be totally devoid of imagination.”)
Jagger’s poster your only bedtime companion. The black neighbors
in the upstairs apartment pounding on their floor, your ceiling,
almost keeping rhythm with Charlie. Yelling, TURN OFF
You couldn’t turn it off then and you couldn’t turn it off now.
The movie and soundtrack. Jagger and his constant gyrations.
Watts and his fixed stares. The nuance of every song memorized.
Your life finally abandoned in the glow of back lighting.

“This poem was inspired by my friend, Richard, who was the first person to encourage me when I began writing poetry in the early 1970s. I met him at a community poetry workshop sponsored by an independent bookstore and, at that time, didn’t take my writing seriously. Dick changed all that when he challenged me to write in a wide range of poetic styles to find my own voice. He suggested I apply to graduate programs. In 1977, I was accepted by Goddard’s low-residency MFA Program, and I never looked back. However, Dick remained a part of my life. He was a dear friend but battled demons and substance abuse. Once he told me the music of The Rolling Stones was the soundtrack of his life and their song, ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want,’ was his personal anthem. He’s been dead for over twenty years—I still miss him.”

Linda Nemec Foster is the author of nine collections of poetry including Amber Necklace from Gdansk (LSU Press) and Talking Diamonds (New Issues Press). Her work has been published in numerous magazines such as The Georgia ReviewNimrodNorth American Review, and New American Writing. She has received awards from the Arts Foundation of Michigan, National Writers’ Voice, and the Academy of American Poets. Foster founded the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College (Grand Rapids, MI).

Originally Published by Duende, click here to view article.

Linda Nemec Foster featured on the website, A Year of Being Here

Eliminating the Horizon

—for Tom Andrews


Who needs boundaries?

If your eyes fail to imagine

where the earth ends and the sky

begins, think of a place bereft

of lines:  the blue depths of a stream

flowing like hair that will never

be combed.  Deep indigo of nothing

but fluid memory ebbing around

blossoms of white asters.  “I remember

how flowers feel when you barely

touch them,” says the water.  Like leaving

one world and embracing another:

seeds bursting into wildflowers,

clouds changing into rain,

the image of our borders

a mere outline the soul ignores.

Originally Published by A Year Of Being Here, click here to view article.

Linda Nemec Foster’s poems featured in Scintilla Magazine

Found Poem: 35 Years Later, The English Professor Tries to Change My Grade

Dear Ms. Nemec Foster:

As I clean and clear my office for someone new
to occupy, I think how the years have gotten away
from me. I think how long it has taken me to write
this letter, even though I suspect “word-of-mouth”
may have reached you about my attempt to change your grade.

The results of my attempt could not be facilitated.
All the past college records have been transferred to plastic.
It would require an earthquake to summon up those files
and then with some type of white-out to erase the file
and then insert a new grade. Suffice it to say, it was impossible.

So for your endurance and for your perseverance and for your
continuing service to poetry, I admit I judged you too harshly.
You have gone on to produce fine work; that is what many students
fail to do because of the odds before them. The trick is not
to give up on one’s imagination; the trick is not to abandon

one’s sense of vision and inspiration. John Ciardi, my teacher
and mentor, used to say a poem came from 10% inspiration
and 90% perspiration. Technique and sense is what we do
with the ten percent which comes out of nowhere. So, for all
my errors, I offer you this letter with a Superior A inside.

I also have to wonder what happened to those early poems?
And what grade would you assign to them presently? Save this
letter and sell it to the highest bidder, saying that judgments
are almost always subjective. We judge what we understand,
to paraphrase Marianne Moore’s famous dictum in “Poetry.”

I wish you continued success as you continue to make poetry
a vital force in your life, a vital force in your community.
It is a first-rate gift. And always remember: the act of making
a poem is to touch many vicariously that we may never meet.
Again my sincere apologies, Herbert Woodward Martin.

Originally Published by Issue One, click here to view article.

Poetry featured on Lucid Rhythms

My Daughter Discovers the Violin

Ever since she first
lightly touched the strings,
lowering the bow so that
even the sparrows
nesting outside her window could
feel the music, my daughter has marveled
over and over at how pure
song can emanate from amber wood,
transparent strings,
even silent hands. My daughter, whose fingers
run through the violin’s forest like a startled wind.



The clouds, empty
of white treasure.
The earth, covered
with cold crystals.
The river, frozen
in gray memory.


Poet and writer Linda Nemec Foster is the author of seven poetry collections, including the critically acclaimed Amber Necklace from Gdansk. She recently served a two-year term as Poet Laureate of the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Originally Published by Lucid Rhythms, click here to view page archive.