“Blue” by Linda Nemec Foster Published in Streetlight Magazine


It must have been her accent
that seduced and baffled my ears.
The Egyptian woman, still lost
in the desert air of Cairo,
read her poems filled with water
from the Nile and blue heaven,
blue heaven, blue heaven flying
over the lotus flowers. I heard
“heaven” but later discovered
she said “heron.” A distant cousin
to the sacred ibis, herons (even blue ones)
are commonplace–are everywhere–even
in the non-exotic marshes of northern Ohio
where another blue creation–my mother–
landed. Blue Helen, blue Helen, blue Helen.
The kids in Cleveland would tease her.
Her blue eyes swimming in the immigrant’s
version of hide and seek, lost and found,
a lexicon of strange words that trip her tongue:


                             train track

wind storm


A paradise where she flies, dusts clouds,
and polishes haloes. Washing the blue
of heaven until it shines like a word
that has yet to be invented.

Originally Published by Streetlight Magazine, click here to view article.

“Blue” by Linda Nemec Foster was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 

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.

Review of Amber Necklace from Gdansk in online review journal, North of Oxford

Reviewed by: Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

Linda Nemec Foster reiterates this real and imagined theme of yearning and self-discovery throughout the four sections of Amber Necklace from Gdańsk.
In poem after poem of sculptured landscapes of Old World and New, of Poland (before WW I) to USA of today, Linda Nemec Foster yearns for wholeness, yet knows that this severance of self the “she” (“the other self”) from the Old World will be never be found “in the New,” as in the appropriately titled poem, “Doppelgänger” she writes:
…A mere roll of the dice that I’m here
and she somewhere else
…because a simple act of birth that place me
in suburbs south of Cleveland and
not in a town across the river from Oświęcim
The last line of the poem puts the reader at a screeching, yet realistic halt:
…may we never recognize each other on street.
Is this an acceptance of harsh reality, of being born in Cleveland, Ohio “on the opposite side of the world” to first generation parents (whose grandparents left Poland) and the realism that she will never be able to experience or have lived the life of “the other self.” I believe the last line of the poem is realistic; however, within every artist/poet there is imagination; there is the “what if” question; there is the wishful desire to have that which you know you can never really have. As if, perchance, there could have been a meeting of the “other self,” that is if Fate could have allowed her to live a different life (she never knew), a life she could never truly know. Yet, the fact is she was destined to live here in Ohio, in the New. It is this longing that exists – to have known a different life, to have been given an opportunity to be a different self “other self” in this opening poem that stays with the reader especially because of the powerfully ironic last line
…may we never recognize each other on street.
Can one re-unite the two? No, never, and if we could then would we be better off not knowing what life would have been like anyway. A bit paradoxical? Absolutely! The “longing” to be someone we could never be, yet at the same time thinking we should have at least had a “chance” at it. A choice, perhaps This is the unknown, the not knowing (that can never truly be satisfied); and that which a second generation girl/woman ponders, especially when one is blessed/cursed with a creativity poetic mind. A mind that questions.
This is a book of interconnected narrative poems with an undertow of longing for a life we can never have. Therefore, the second poem, “Doppelgänger,” has set the stage for the remainder of the poems in this collection. The fact is she was born here, but her love is reflected in poems about a family she knew and a family she will never really know.
The poems roll into and out of each other with a constant pulling undertow of longing, which is never understated in her poems about people and places. Each poem beautifully written, beautifully sad, hurts the reader deeply, because there’s a void which cannot be filled. Especially evident in the poem,
“The Immigrant’s Dream” where each of the three stanzas begin with “a recurrent dream” and ends with a woman’s voice whispering two very strong final words: “You’re home.”
This wise archetypal dream woman trying to offer closure tells the immigrant “you’re home” to give the disconnected speaker peace, resolution. Yet, there really is no peace, no closure for three generations of women, who must live without a sense of true peace; and it’s not just the woman speaker, who is displayed but it is her grandparents, parents, and her own son that carries the burden of loss.
This sense of loss, in more detail, is also relevant in the poem, “Young Boy in a Tenement House, Holding the Moon.”
He is anonymous as a fairy tale.
His bare feet could be my father’s
or perhaps my son’s…
the speaker’s father and / or son’s feet, and as the poem continues it includes the boy’s mother –
his mother five flights up
keeping six kids at bay, waiting
for that basin of water…
So it is at this turning point of generational weariness that a child sent for water for an awaiting mother and a large family of siblings that the poet allows the boy to express his inner feelings. The boy in this poem uses his imagination to cope with the un-copeable and this is where Nemic Foster has the young boy’s basin become the moon. The reader knows a round basin resembles a full moon, but what is so poetically crafted here is that the boy
…smiles/ not for the camera, but to himself, as if he’s holding a captured moon
Here the “moon,” may appear subtle, but to Nemec Foster it not subtle at all, rather the skilled use and choice of the word “captured.” It is not used as a verb here, rather an adjective, and not a “capturing” moon,” but a “captured moon,” as if the child and his entire family residing in a tenement were in a “captured” state of existence, as new comers to a foreign land (America in lieu of Poland). The moon is metaphorically alone in the darkness and “captured” (involuntarily) in a gravitational orbit. Poland is now dead to him as the moon, as the “captured moon.” Captured defined is “to take into one’s possession or control by force.” Now, pushing the envelope further, the boy whispers to the moon,
and whispering to it, his breath
lost in its silver and dust:
księżyc, księżyc, latać, latać, daleko.
And before the translation, the poem is interrupted by an foreign language (Polish), not English, because the boy and his siblings, mother, and possibly his extended family (grandparents, great-grandparents) are all displaced in America, not only by their residence in a tenement house, but by language itself. Now, the last two translated lines in English, as the last to lines of this poem:
Moon, moon, fly away, fly away,
and please, take me with you.
Here, the child’s plea, “please take me with you” to my real home, because the moon can see all, Poland and America, and the child is homesick for something he cannot have.
The aforementioned poems are in the very beginning of Section I – Conjuring Up the Landscape and in continuing in that section Nemec Foster writes poems about her father learning to count in English; immigrant child at school; “The Old Neighborhood”; her mother, “The Silent One,” etc. and ends the section with the poem, “Sitting in America at the End of the Century” with these last very painful lines (both in Polish and English) addressing her grandparents (Maria and Tomasz, Zofia and Franciszek)in the poem’s last stanza:
… A distant granddaughter surrounded by cars,
longing for a language that’s more akin to damp
earth than linguistics, stuttering in a tongue
so natural to them they know what she’s trying
to say, even before the halting words
leave her lips. Bardzo mi przykro,
nie wiem. I am sorry, I know nothing.
A real page turner, so captivating that you, the reader, become engrossed with each poem, as I have; but you must continue onward with a reverent, dirge-like pace through the remaining three sections, as they will hypnotize you as well. She is allowing their voices and her voice to be heard, so you can learn of the honesty, integrity, and beauty of each lived life. These narrative-memoir poems tell the familial immigrant stories of her grandparents and parents and also Nemec Foster’s very own second-generation story of, mentally and physically, crossing the Atlantic from America to Poland and then back to America again.
Since I have elaborated in Section I, I will try to consolidate the remaining three sections, and this is not to diminish those sections, no, not at all, but in order not to make this – a too long review.
Section II – The Rivers of Past and Present; Section III- Dark Amber of Regret; & Section IV – To Smile at the Closed Mouth of Loss will keep the reader totally engaged. I will pick one poem from each section to focus upon, as briefly as I can, in order to do justice to both poet and poem.
Section II– The Rivers of Past and Present has four prose poems, with the exception of the poem, “The Two Rivers in My Story.” Once again these poems do not spare the reader their emotional empowerment, with an intense flow of prosaic images, narratives, and truths felt by a transplanted poet. America’s Cuyahoga River aligns, yet conversely misaligns with Poland’s Vistula River – just as the past aligns, yet conversely misaligns to the present, at least in Nemec Foster’s telling of rivers and time in her prosaic poem, “The Women with the Two Rivers Growing from Her Hair” (wonderful title). Here, Nemec Foster recounts a “true” story told to her by her mother about her grandmother, Maria.
…I know it’s true because my mother told me that her mother saw it with her own two eyes.
Interestingly enough, oral history imagined or true is prevalent among immigrant families and serves as a connective thread often linking one generation to the next, especially in this story of women.
Maria, my mother’s mother with green eyes who died long ago, whom I never knew, but could only imagine.
Without giving the total story away here are some lines of her grandmother’s story told by Nemec Foster’s mother to her, whereby the flow of the women of her family and the flow of rivers align and misalign with each other.
One day she decided to leave her mother, her father, all her sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends and come to the New World and live in America.
Her grandmother settled in Ohio in a boarding house near the Cuyahoga River and it took her weeks to pronounce the river’s name.
She especially loved the sound of the city’s river, Cuyahoga, even though it took her many weeks before she could even begin to pronounce it. …As if trying to will the river into her tiny bedroom on the third floor of Mrs. Okasinski’s boarding house.
The grandmother’s dream of the Vistula River in Poland, where she turns into a mermaid. A straight up metaphor, why, because oral tradition and the imagination usually go hand-in-hand.
She was a mermaid swimming in the deep, clear waters of her homeland, the Vistula River. Her legs had turned into one huge fin, her beautiful hair had become filmy seaweed. Even her green eyes had turned into the blue-white of mother-of-pearl.
Nemec Foster hits the comparisons hard: Old World – Poland vs. New World – America; Vistula River vs. Cuyahoga River; the Past vs. the Present; and then with her brilliant choice of poetic language, the Simile
– “like” for comparative purposes.
The Vistula flowed around her like scattered diamonds. For the first time since leaving Poland, she felt homesick. In the morning when she awoke, the rain was still falling, like drops of a river from the sky.
In finishing this comparative poem, there’s unification and /or a blending of the two separate entities into the one identity, separate but united in the poem’s summation:
Her long, golden hair had explicably transformed into the two rivers she loved so much: blue Vistula of the fish-maid; green Cuyahoga of the exotic song. They flowed from her head like twin cascades of the past and present, the old and the new.
And finally Nemec Foster’s heart wrenching metaphors provide hidden similarities between her grandmother and / or immigrant women and their descendants, directly and poetically equating them to river/water images:
Some say the woman disappeared into the rivers that claimed her. Some say she walked into the rain and became the rain. And some refuse to believe that a woman’s hair can change into the waters of two rivers by mere act of a strange dream. But then, they don’t know the woman.
Section III- Dark Amber of Regret succeeds II, but not with prosaic poems, rather 13 shorter poems. These poems – move the reader along the high wire of regret and longing, looking at each side Old – New, Poland – America, as if the speaker, a high wire walker were treading very carefully in a world where a fine wire-thin-line exists; and they must forever walk the path of an “examined” life with no real resolution, one always existing alongside the other. This disconnection between two world’s trying to connect is stated in the first lines of the poem “Moje Rozwiane Włosy” where the East is separated from the West:
Beyond any control of the East /West border,
Oder/Neisse line, the arbitrary demarcations
of free market and fixed economy, my hair
Here the speaker, I, uses the image of her “hair” to connect her.
At the beginning of the poem:
…my hair
my hair has become wild, electric halo that refuses…
and at the end of this poem:
…My hair, my wild hair,
wanting to be a braided rope that connects the two.
The hair image of the “I” speaker resonates back to the grandmother, Maria, and her “long, golden” braided hair (Section II, above). The speaker (probably Nemec Foster, herself) using a very womanly image of her hair is trying to connect the disconnect. Actually the braiding of three long individual strands (daughter, mother, grandmother) into one braid connects the three women together in their two distinct worlds.
I would be remiss not to state that Section III’s poems are extremely musical as a whole. Many stanzas like verses of songs binding many voices together, as if each poem the voice of an instrument, a symphony playing melodiously together. Lovely musical titles too, and poems enriched with naturalistic settings containing names and colors of flowers and trees, such as “Mazovian Willows – Chopin’s Nocturne, Opus 9” (Chopin exiled from Poland); “Song of Sorrow – On Listening to Gorecki’s Third Symphony “ (written as a rhythmic Villanelle); “After the War: Purple Flowers Spilling from the Window;” etcetera. There is one very daunting poem, “Chapel of Skulls – Czermna, Poland” that does not fit the uplifting musical category of many of the others in this section. It is realistically and humanistically devastating, more funereal. I believe this poem a silent reminder to Nemec Foster that despite her families disconnect from Poland, there would be nothing more terrible then for her family to have been in Poland during WW I and WW II. Not just our own deaths, as the poem reminds us in America and Europe, but the reminder of the
…mass graves at Katyn
or the empty crematorium at Auschwitz
can prepare you for this.
Nothing can ever really prepare you for “this” meaning death.
Further, the last poem of Section III is the book’s title – “Amber Necklace from Gdańsk” and this poem echoes back to the braided hair, but this time three
strands of the past braided around my neck.
White amber of memory, gold amber of song, dark amber of regret.
So, three colors of amber as memory, song, and regret are braided appropriately, as title of this book of poems.
Section IV – This last section moves through character and place poems, but the reader is struck by the last three lines of the last poem, “Dancing with my sister.” Here the poet not only echoes back to this Section’s title – To Smile at the Closed Mouth of Loss –but concludes the book appropriately as follows:
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.
Linda Nemec Foster and her sister have truly learned to smile despite loss and the reader gallops along with Linda and her sister “to the Beer Barrel Polka” with “RESPECT” for the glowing women they have become in America. In the second-generation immigrants’ fight for recognition, Linda Nemec Foster has won the braided Amber Necklace from Gdańsk glowing with three “tears (tiers) of the sun” around her neck.

Originally published by North Of Oxford

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 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.