Linda Nemec Foster- Despite Everything You’re Heard About the Motor City, Detroit’s Poetry Community Flourishes

Linda Nemec Foster blogs about the P&W supported event at UDetroit Cafe. Author of nine collections of poetry, including Talking Diamonds (finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year) and Amber Necklace from Gdansk (finalist for the Ohio Book Award). Linda Nemec Foster’s work has been published in the Georgia Review, Nimrod, North American Review, and New American Writing. Cry of Freedom, her collaboration with musician Laszlo Slomovits, inspired by the poems in her chapbook, Ten Songs from Bulgaria, was released as a CD in 2013. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College.

The same day that the public announcement of Detroit’s bankruptcy was blasted around the world, I was invited to write this blog. Pretty ironic, eh? Not if you know anything about the D’s thriving and dynamic poetry scene. I currently live in west Michigan (Grand Rapids, to be exact), but I lived in Detroit for ten pivotal years in the ’70’s and ’80’s. Those were the years when I started writing poetry and began working on my degree in the country’s first low-residency MFA Program at Goddard College (this program that Ellen Bryant Voigt founded has subsequently moved to Warren Wilson College). There is another reason why the city has played a special role in my life–my first child, Brian, was born there in 1979.

Because of my personal connection to the D, I have maintained close relationships with a number of Detroit’s poets and writers. Through those connections, I have been invited to give readings, workshops, and conference presentations several times a year. Many of those events have been sponsored by Poets & Writers including my appearance on August 15, 2012, at the UDetroit Cafe. That was one very special night.

The venue was packed, the crowd was enthusiastic, and the host–Detroit poetry impresario M. L. Liebler–was a great M.C. His introductions were lively and so were the readers and performers. Besides your humble blogger, the program included the music of the RJ Spangler Trio with Larry Smith, performance poet Wardell Montgomery Jr., Detroit musician Keith Gamble, and poet Mary Jo Firth Gillett. Reading with Mary Jo was particularly wonderful: She’s a fine poet and a former student (she participated in a master level poetry workshop I taught at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1999). Everyone who took the stage was in terrific form. I read five poems including a long piece on my favorite movie star of all time, Barbara Stanwyck. It brought down the house. Who knew that I had a bit of the performance poet in me?

It certainly was a grand evening. Besides, there was someone in the audience that made it even more of a memorable event. Brian (yes, my son who was born in the D) was able to come to the reading and be part of that enthusiastic crowd. Unbeknown to both of us, there was an artist sitting nearby who drew a pen and ink sketch of us while we were talking before the readings: mother and son with the Detroit skyline in the background. He gave us the drawing gratis–”a gift from the D.”

Poets & Writers, with its Readings/Workshops Program, is the epitome of The Gift. The impact of its support that has benefited communities throughout the country is immeasurable. And for a community like Detroit–with everything it’s been through–the Program is a significant affirmation of the vibrant voices of poets and writers that care deeply about their city.

Originally Published by Poets & Writers, click here to view article.

Grand Rapids Poets’ Conference

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4
11:30-12:45 | Website session: Rod Torreson with students, Thru the 3rd Eye; David Cope on professional websites and use of online sources.

Location: 108 Sneden
Exploration of Thru the 3rd Eye, Rod Torreson’s laureate project with students and former students: the website as a way of making connections, developing interviewing and review skills, selection of poems for publication by poets ranging from the well-known to the youthful beginner. If there is time, David Cope will also demonstrate the uses of the poet’s personal/professional website, “scene” sites and websites connecting one to the larger world of poetry publishing.

1:00-2:30 | Reading Series Panel:

Location: 108 Sneden
GVSU, Aquinas, Smokin’ Spoken Word, Literary Life Bookstore & More, WYCE Electric Poetry.
Featuring Patricia Clark, Linda Nemec Foster, Azizi Jasper, Zachary G. Tomaszewski, Deirdre Chervenka Cunningham
Moderator: David Cope
The reading series is both an important means by which to bring local communities of writers together as fellow writers on a journey to awareness and a way to bring local communities into contact with nationally and internationally prominent poets whose work instills an awareness beyond the confines of the provincial limits of an otherwise disconnected local scene. This panel explores that nexus as seen through two major college series, two local reading series, and our local radio series. Panelists will also reflect on the importance of the audience, questions about the art of the reading, and promotion of the series.

2:30-4:25 | Performance / Spoken Word Poetry / Open Mic

Location: Sneden 108
Performers: Azizi Jasper, Poetry West Michigan poets
7:00-8:30 | READING: Patricia Clark, Rod Torreson, Azizi Jasper, David Cope.

Location: Library second floor.
Introduced by David Cope.
THURSDAY, APRIL 5
11:15-12:45 | Open mic reading.

Location: Sneden 108
MC: David Cope
1:00-2:15 | Poetry and Music with Linda Nemec Foster and Laszlo Slomovits

Location: Sneden 108
The poet and composer will perform, illustrating how two arts can coexist and enhance both arts

2:30-4:00 | Working with a Publisher: editors, copyright, contract, process of publication

Panelists: David Cope, Linda Nemec Foster, L. S. Klatt, Eric Greinke
Location: Sneden 108
Poetry is most importantly made visible through publication, first in journals, magazines, online zines, broadsheets and even self-published books. Young poets and writers entering the arena of publishing for the first time often do not understand the craft of publication, which involves the nature of submitting one’s work, working with editors, understanding of copyright and contracts, and the process of publication. This panel includes some of the most heavily published Grand Rapids poets, who will reflect on these questions and the journeys that they have made in the world of publication.

7:00-8:30 | READING: Linda Nemec Foster, L. S. Klatt, Miriam Pederson

Originally Published by The Grand Rapids Poet Conference, click here to view page archive.

Linda Nemec Foster profiled in West Michigan Woman Magazine

Writers block doesn’t scare Linda Nemec Foster–she’s always writing. As Grand Rapids’ first poet laureate, from 2003 to 2005, her literary oven is always cooking, although she hesitates to talk about the projects that are still in the works.

“I’m superstitious. If I talk too much about a project when it’s still in the hopper, I feel a little bit uncomfortable…I don’t want to jinx it,” she says.

There is plenty to talk about that Linda has already completed. As the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College, the poet, playwright, inspired literary artist works to deepen her own knowledge of the written word and excite others as well.

“I always tell people I have three children, a son, a daughter, and the Contemporary Art Series,” Linda says.

The series launched in 1997, founded by Linda and her husband, Dr. Anthony Foster. She wanted students and faculty to be involved, and to this day, there is still a student representative on the board helping to decide which writers are invited to speak on campus. Presentations are held twice each semester. Since the inaugural lecture, more than sixty authors have come to speak.

“My husband and I never imagined it would blossom into what it has become,” Linda says. “It really has been a labor of love for me, so I’m happy with how this series has grown and really become a permanent fixture in Grand Rapids and the West Michigan art scene.”

The series hosts authors of all literary genres to appeal to a wide range of listeners. The goal, Linda says, is excellence. The series is free and open to the public, and each speaker gives two presentations, one at the lunch-time hour and another in the evening.

“It just really opens up the whole world of great literature to the community, and it’s not just a once a year or certain genre, it’s all facets of the writing life,” she says.

Writing has been a mobile passion in Linda’s life since she put pen to paper seriously in the ’70s.

“I took my first creative writing class in poetry at Wayne (State University) when I lived in Detroit. My husband went to Wayne (Medical School), and I took classes from a poet. Her name was Faye Kicknosway,” Linda remembers.

Linda’s post-graduate classes supplemented her Bachelors Degree from Aquinas, and she later earned a Masters in Creative Writing from Goddard College in Vermont. There, Linda studied under the likes of Raymond Carver, Donald Hall, Lisel Mueller, Robert Hass, and Tobias Wolff.

“They had a remarkable faculty of writers that were just beginning their careers. Many went on to very famous careers. They were our teachers!  It was quite a remarkable program. Boy, did I cut my teeth,” she says.

Linda has advice for other women who want to spread their artistic wings.

“Be generous and don’t just hog your accolades for yourself. Really share and be gracious with your time and talents,” she advises. “Work, work, work at writing, and do not be discouraged if you get a lot of rejection. That’s part of the process of the job.”

Originally Published by West Michigan Woman, click here to view article.

Linda Nemec Foster’s poetry collection ‘Talking Diamonds’ sparkles with brilliance

“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.

E-mail the author of this story: [email protected]

Originally Published by The Grand Rapids Press, click here to view article. 

AWP Reading Series: The Michigan Poet

The Michigan Poet distributes poetry from major Michigan based poets to: 1) Highlight the “backyard” talent of contemporary poets, and 2) Use poetry as a means of developing deep, unique cultural identities that have formerly suffered under commercial and industrial economic emphasis.

Starting in February 2010, it has published monthly broadsides featuring one poem and distributed copies for free to the Big Rapids, Michigan community in public venues, schools, and such nontraditional arenas as dentist offices, laundromats, and more. Within a few months, the Michigan Poet started shipping copies for similar distribution to Holland, Michigan and in July, 2011, to Lansing. In addition to the monthly broadsides, the press also produces “Mini-ichigan” micro-chapbooks twice a year, and organizes poetry readings and workshops. To celebrate National Poetry Month, it brought Patricia Clark and Mary Jo Firth Gillett to Big Rapids Public High School to read, with live jazz accompaniment, for 300 students.

The Michigan Poet has published work from such well-known poets as Linda Nemec Foster, Robert Fanning, Ken Mikolowski, Judith Minty, Elinor Benedict, Keith Taylor, Phillip Sterling, and Therese Becker.

Originally Published by The Michigan Poet, click here to view article.

Mark Lamoureux on four Cervena Barva Press Chapbooks

I first became acquainted with Cervena Barva Press through Kevin Gallagher, an author from my own press, who sent me a copy of his Cervena Barva chapbook Isolate Flecks. One of the great things about being an editor of a small press without an editorial hierarchy is that one is the sole arbiter of what gets published, allowing for a very personal array of material. If the author is dead in the 21st century, the editor most certainly is not, with present home-printing and POD technology making it easier than ever before to run a small press out of one’s very own garret, attic, coldwater flat, trailer or apartment. Consequently, small publishing ventures allow us to look into the singular tastes of their respective editors.

Some choose to hone a very specific editorial aesthetic, publishing works that highlight a particular facet of the art, whereas other editors operate primarily by whimsy, publishing whatever disparate works catch their eye and appeal to them. It is the former editorial program I most enjoy, and the one from which I approach my own endeavors at Cy Gist press. Likewise, this seems to be the operating principle of Gloria Mindock, editor of Cervena Barva Press, at least among the chapbooks I have had the opportunity to read: Ten Songs from Bulgaria by Linda Nemec Foster, Isolate Flecks by Kevin Gallagher, The News Today by George Held and A Cure for Suicide by Larissa Shmailo. The presentation of these books is utilitarian and no-nonsense; they are half-letter fold, saddle-stapled chaps with various photographs and/or paintings for cover art. The general aesthetic of the poems is likewise straight-ahead—with the authors employing parse-able syntax and generally left-justified lines. Within this general framework, however, there is considerable diversity amongst these various authors.

Ten Songs from Bulgaria is a series of ten-line ekphrastic poems based on the photographs of Bulgarian photographer Jacko Vassilev. An initial reading without having seen the photographs offered a sometimes lyric, sometimes narrative, always “realistic” glimpse of a continuum filled with history, abstraction and melancholy—the mood I often receive from black and white photographs from Eastern Europe. Within each ten lines an explicit story is told—of dancing bears, the patron saint of pilots, and young shepherds in front of old churches. “Pure art beyond your imagination,” as Foster says in “Cry of Freedom.” Ekphrasic work is best experience alongside its visual counterpart, so I looked up the photographs, which, luckily, all seemed to come from a 2005 Harpers’ Magazine feature. Looked at alongside the photographs, the poems provided a melancholy soundtrack to Vassilev’s sad, expressionistic images. Human eyes stare out at the viewer in many of the photographs, and the poems seem likewise sentient and inhabited. As with all good ekphrastic work, these poems and photographs illuminate each other—like the moon is lit by the sun. It is unfortunate that the small press form and intellectual property laws prohibit the presentation of ekphrastic work alongside its “source” material, since this is the best way to experience such work, and this chapbook is no exception. However, the poems also succeed admirably on their own, and call forth a gloaming mood similar to that of the dimly lit photographs, assisted also by the grey paper stock upon which the chapbook is printed.

Isolate Flecks showcases Gallagher’s compelling narrativity that never uses its transparency as a crutch. A poet of considerable range, he is always satisfying—be it in straightforward, almost nostalgic reminiscences of childhood as in “Luis Tiant Fan Club Album” and “The Kid’s Economy,” or in more abstract moments like “No Parade”: “Under confetti / Of paper records // Stacked mattresses / A mess of peas.” Gallagher’s narrative poems are true songs of New England, which seem to enigmatically capture the essence of the region and its ghosts such as Gloucester’s whose “Gill nets hover the ocean floor / like long volleyball nets.” Likewise, Gallagher casts his nets wide and turns up a menagerie of compelling stories and images at once easily recognizable and mysterious.

At 46 pages, Larissa Shmailo’s A Cure for Suicide pushes the limits of the chapbook size; Shmailo pushes a number of other limits while she’s at it. Seemingly like its author, the small book is a handful. These poems cut a singular figure, obsessed with and at the same time afraid of intimacy. At times brief and breathless and at others expansive and frenetic, Shmailo seems to be in constant motion, “I stutter like an old gun: / Take me / Know / The fast love of my hair.” While at times these poems’ excesses can be cloying, they seem to accomplish their intended effect of leaving the reader bewildered and somewhat breathless. A Cure for Suicide gets considerable mileage out of the lyric ‘I,’ but could have benefited from some slight editing or more frequent variation of pace or pronoun for the sake of counterpoint, such as some of the book’s more atypical, but most satisfying—the sparsely-verbed “Harlem Line” and “Exorcism (Found Poem)”’s quasi-religious litanies, and a few fewer femme-fatale relationship autopsies of the order of “Personal” and “Abortion Hallucination.” Overall, however, the book’s compelling moments outnumber its overly familiar ones.

George Held’s book of ripped-from-the-headlines poems, The News Today does what you expect it to. Held is irate about the things that we educated liberals have been irate about since the 1970’s, with the requisite amount of world weary Baby-Boomer self-consciousness (“We showed up again, our hope as threadbare / As the clothes of the oldest Lefties on parade.”) woven in to assure the reader that the author is not being, like, utopian or something. The News Today is most satisfying in its least-expected and most empathic moments—offering human kindness to the erstwhile astronaut in “Nowacked” or cutting Britney Spears some slack in “O Britney.” It is least satisfying at those times where it offers odes to what seems to be a freshman composition textbook with “big” talking points such as GLOBAL WARMING (“The Glacier and the Canary”) VIOLENCE IN SCHOOLS (“Home Made”) and PATRIOTISM (“Patriotism”). Held is an author content to wear his heart and his politics on his sleeve, but the book’s strongest moments are its most ambiguous—such as the weirdly could-be-perturbed-could-be-into-it rhymed couplets of “Be My Pet” (“Wear a collar, like a collie / Be my lap dog and my dolly”) or the aforementioned “O Britney.”

There should be enough for any reader to laud or lambaste as I have here amongst Cervena Barva’s formidable catalog. Mindock’s editorial eye seems to have something for everyone and the press is inspirational in its apparent doggedness in tough times. Amidst a climate of general nebulousness, any one of these scrappy little (mostly) straight-forward books offers a bit of contrapuntal saltiness to the sweet or a porthole in the general opacity and are certainly worth taking a look at no matter what one’s aesthetic allegiances are.

Originally Published by Gently Read Literature, click here to view article.

Electric Poetry – Linda Nemec Foster

by Olive, 88.1FM WYCE, Grand Rapids Community Media Center

Topics: linda nemec foster, electric poetry, olive
Linda Nemec Foster on Electric Poetry with Olive on 88.1FM WYCE.org

Originally Published by Electric Poetry, click here to view article.

Polish-American Writers Reading at the Polish Museum of America

On February 12, 2009, The Polish Museum of America hosted a reading by five Polish American writers: Anthony Bukoski, Linda Nemec Foster, John Minczeski, Leslie Pietrzyk, and me.

The event was a powerful emotional experience for all of us. Speaking for myself, I know that it’s not often that I have the opportunity to read to an audience of people who share my Polish heritage, and when I do such readings, I always feel a strong connection that is hard to explain. It’s a connection that goes beyond words (whether Polish or English), beyond present circumstances, and beyond borders.

Shortly after the reading, Maria Ciesla, the President of The Polish Museum of America, sent me a note that conveys what, I believe, both the readers and the audience felt that night:

Thank you so much for your successful efforts, and please convey my sincere thanks to Linda, Leslie, John, and Anthony. Guests present are still commenting to me about the uniqueness and artistic fullness of the evening. This was a new and magical event for the PMA, and I can assure you it will not be the last. Despite my being transfixed, I glanced around the Hall and observed the same.

To me personally, your writings parallel so much of my own experience, even though our family did not remain in Chicago’s Polonia. Driving home, I blessed and thanked my parents even more than in the past!

_______________________________

To find out more about the readers who read at the Polish Museum, please double click on their names:

Anthony Bukoski has published five story collections, four with Southern Methodist University Press, including North of the Port and Time Between Trains. Holy Cow! Press recently reissued his first book, Twelve Below Zero, in a new and expanded edition. A Christopher Isherwood Foundation fellowship winner, Bukoski teaches English at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

Linda Nemec Foster is the author of eight collections of poetry including Amber Necklace from Gdansk (LSU Press), Listen to the Landscape (Eerdmans Publishing), Ten Songs from Bulgaria (Cervena Barva Press). She has received honors from the Academy of American Poets, the National Writer’s Voice, and the Polish American Historical Association. She is the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College and currently is a member of the Series’ programming committee.

John Guzlowski writes poems about his family’s experiences in the Nazi concentration camps. His most recent books are Lightning and Ashes and the Pulitzer-nominated Third Winter of War: Buchenwald. His unpublished novel about German soldiers on the Eastern Front has recently been short-listed for the Bakeless Literary Award.

John Minczeski’s books of poetry include Letter to Serafin (Akron University Press), November (Finishing Line Press), Circle Routes (Akron University Press), Gravity (Texas Tech). He’s the winner of the Akron Poetry Prize, a Bush Fellowship, and an NEA fellowship among other prizes. He freelances as a poet in the schools and does occasional adjunct work.

Leslie Pietrzyk is the author of two novels: Pears on a Willow Tree (Avon Books) and A Year and a Day (William Morrow). She teaches at Johns Hopkins and has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf and the Sewanee Writers’ Conferences. She is currently writing a novel about Polish immigrants in Chicago.

 

Originally Published by Writing Polish Diaspora, click here to view article.

“The Dream of Trees” by Dianne Carroll Burdick & Linda Nemec Foster

The Dream of Trees

by Dianne Carroll Burdick & Linda Nemec Foster

 

To walk like the scarves
Of clouds, to abandon land
And never return

 

Originally Published by Rattle, click here to view article.

DIANNE CARROLL BURDICK: “I photographed all the images with black & white film and printed all images on fiber-base black & white paper. When the print is dry, I treat the paper with an oil-base solvent and color the image with colored pencils. ‘Dream of Trees’ was photographed at Moose Lake, Maine, around 7 a.m. My husband, Rob, and I were traveling from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, back home to Grand Rapids, Michigan. This view was too beautiful not to stop.”

LINDA NEMEC FOSTER: “Throughout my writing career, I have had a deep interest in collaborating with others. In 1998 Dianne Carroll Burdick asked me to write poems in response to her photography for a collaborative art/poetry exhibit called ‘The Good Earth.’ I composed haiku—the traditional form created by Japanese poets over 500 years ago. Then, as now, haiku were written in response to the natural world: the human reaction to the landscape that we are a part of, yet separate from. Ultimately, this project was not only about the landscapes of images and words, but about ourselves: how each of us reflects the universe that the world contains.”

 

“Playground” by Dianne Carroll Burdick & Linda Nemec Foster

DIANNE CARROLL BURDICK: “I photographed all the images with black & white film and printed all images on fiber-base black & white paper. When the print is dry, I treat the paper with an oil-base solvent and color the image with colored pencils. ‘Playground’ was photographed at my dad’s ranch in Ukiah, California. Strangely enough, Ukiah spelled backwards is haiku. My dad, Bruce Carroll, had 200 acres called Round Mountain, and when I would visit, I would always twirl near the spot that this photograph was taken, to enjoy the vast beauty of the land.”

LINDA NEMEC FOSTER: “Throughout my writing career, I have had a deep interest in collaborating with others. In 1998 Dianne Carroll Burdick asked me to write poems in response to her photography for a collaborative art/poetry exhibit called ‘The Good Earth.’ I composed haiku—the traditional form created by Japanese poets over 500 years ago. Then, as now, haiku were written in response to the natural world: the human reaction to the landscape that we are a part of, yet separate from. Ultimately, this project was not only about the landscapes of images and words, but about ourselves: how each of us reflects the universe that the world contains.”


PLAYGROUND

She wants to run, twirl
Follow the path all the way
To her past: those trees

Originally Published by Rattle, click here to view article.