Edward Foster is a widely published critic, essayist, editor, and poet. His poetry has been translated into, and published in, many languages, including single-author volumes in Slovenian, Romanian, and Russian.
The poetry editor of MultiCultural Review, Foster is the founding editor of Talisman: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, Talisman House, Publishers, and Jensen/Daniels, Publishers. He is a co-editor of Contemporary Turkish Studies. He is also the president of Greenfield Distribution, Inc., a book distribution company located in New Hampshire.
A Professor of History and Associate Dean for Administration in the College of Arts and Letters at the Stevens Institute of Technology, he is a former visiting professor at Drew University Graduate Faculty and Beykent University (Istanbul) and was a Fulbright lecturer at Haceteppe University in Ankara, Turkey, and at the University of Istanbul.
The co-director of the Russian/American Cultural Exchange Program, he has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards from Columbia University, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the USIA arts program, the New Jersey Historical Commission, Choice, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the Fulbright Commision, the Greve Foundation, the Fund for Poetry, the Trubar Foundation, and the Turkish Ministry of Culture.
He has served on the Advisory Committee for the Middle East of the Council for Insternational Exchange of Scholars and is currently a member of the U.S. Student Fulbright National Screening Committee for Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey. He serves on the advisory committees for the Light Millennium, Inc., and the journal Reconfigurations and as an associate member of the Institute of Turkish Studies.
For further information, see the Directory of American Scholars, Contemporary Authors, Contemporary Authors: New Revision Series, The Writers Directory, The International Writers and Authors Who's Who, and Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series. See also Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, ed. Shelley Andrews, Vol. 26; Olivier Brossand interviews Edward Foster," Double Change (2003) (online version: www.doublechange.com/issue3); radio interviews archived at "Penn Sound" (www.writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/XCP); Twentieth-Century American Poetry (Facts-on-File); John Olson, "Inner Light," Jacket Magazine (2006); The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poets and Poetry.
Foster's books, chapbooks, and translations
Catharine Maria Sedgwick (1974)
The Civilized Wilderness (1975)
co-editor, Hoboken (1976)
Josiah Gregg and Lewis Hector Garrard (1977)
Susan and Anna Warner (1978)
editor, Cummington Poems (1982)
Richard Brautigan (1983)
William Saroyan (1984)
Jack Spicer (1991)
William Saroyan: A Study of The Short Fiction (1991)
Understanding the Beats (1992)
The Space Between Her Bed and Clock (1993)
The Beats (in Russian) (1993)
The Understanding (1994)
co-editor, The New Freedoms (1994)
editor, Postmodern Poetry (1994)
All Acts Are Simply Acts (1995)
Understanding the Black Mountain Poets (1995)
co-editor, Primary Trouble: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry (1996)
Adrian as Song (1996)
Boy in the Key of E (1998)
editor, Stuart Merrill: The White Tomb (1999)
Answerable to None: Berrigan, Bronk, and the American Real (1999)
editor, Decadents, Symbolists, and Aesthetes in America: Fin-de-Siecle American Poetry (2000)
editor, Poetry and Poetics in a New Millenium (2000)
The Angelus Bell (2001)
co- editor, The World in Time and Space: Towards a History of Innovative American Poetry 1970-the Present (2002)
Mahrem: Things Men Should Do for Men (2002)
White Heat: Selected Works (in Russian), trans. Dima Mesyats and others (2003)
What He Ought To Know: New and Selected Poems (2006)
Kar naj bi on vedel (What He Ought To Know) (in Slovenian), trans. Brane Mozetic & Elizabeta Zargi (2007).
co-editor, Antologie de Poezie Americana Contemporana – 36 de poeti americani contemporani (Romanian) (2006)
co-editor, Born in Utopia: An Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Romanian Poetry (2006)
co-translator, Summer’s End (Yazsonu) by Adalet Agaoglu (2008).
A History of the Common Scale (2008)
Febra alba: Poeme alese (White Fever: Selected Poems) (in Romanian), trans. Alexandra Carides & Carmen Firan) (2009)
Recent Reviews of, and Commentary on, Foster's Works
“The poems [in The Angelus Bell] display intelligence without being pretentious, and their sly humor is endearing.” —Kirkus Reviews
The poems in The Angelus Bell are “elegant portraits of uncertainty.” —Publishers Weekly
The lines in The Angelus Bell, according to Rain Taxi, “tease the reader into a more intimate communion with the processes of sound and inner revelation—a grammar of the soul. . . .”
“Ed Foster is a poet whose sensibilities are postmodern, but whose art does not shy away from making statements that live in sound and memory long after being read. Unlike many contemporary poets Foster's work feeds both the mind and the soul. Wise in the ways of the poet, Foster should be read by those who appreciate sophistication and those aspiring to first hear and to speak as poets.” –reader’s review, Amazon.com
Postmodern Poetry “will be a revelation for poets and readers unfamiliar with the American experimental lyric tradition.” —Harvard Review
The Space Between Her Bed and Clock “resists critical appropriation by refusing to confine itself to a single form or prosodic arrangement. This is negative capability taken to a new level & it feels good — the flight-simulating G-forces in a jet built for oblivion” —TapRoot Reviews
In All Acts Are Simply Acts, Foster “has taken that decisive step and has done as the reader is enjoined at the outset — to ‘[l]ook into [the saints’] eyes.’ Such an unswerving view brings a beauty and power to language inseparable from our need for language with such energy.” —Lift
Understanding the Black Mountain Poets gives “in many ways, . . . a valuable and timely introduction.” —Papers on Language and Literature
“With an admirable balance of unflinching honesty and delicate indirection, Ed Foster’s boy in the key of e offers a work of measured thoughtfulness and intense delight, By restraining his emotional effects through a subtle orchestration of sound, image, and idea, he has allowed his forms to speak, which his themes resonate discretely through-out.” —Poetry Project Newsletter
“Let no one seek [in The Understanding] a secure sense of self. . . . To have read these poems is to have entered another self, to have felt the vital force.” —David Landrey, “Afterword” to The Understanding
All Acts Are Simply Acts “operates within a framework of interdependency; there is a careful balance as the various pieces achieve the level of narrativity (as opposed to argument); the perpetual flux of Foster’s arrangement (poems alternated occasionally with prose, or ‘prose-poems’) gives space for a wide range of attitude, including extremes of intense feeling, which are often negotiated in terms of relentless searchings-out of what language and history might be said to have ghosted.” —Witz
“Simultaneously erudite, puzzling, evasive, and revelatory, boy in the key of e is a fascinating examination of the self as nullity, as absence, as ‘agent of its own instability.’ In writing, Foster found a way to let people ‘hear’ the ‘terrible’ things in his head while at the same time maintaining his distance. In their delicate interplay and precarious balance between presence and absence, what his poems ‘say’ is precisely the vanishing of the world.” —The Alsop Review
“As a writer, critic, editor, and teacher, Ed Foster is inveterately Apollonian: lucid, balanced, well organized. Answerable to None is, consequently, a vigorously Apollonian book, albeit one liberally seasoned with that tangy, don’t-tread-on-me defiance implicit in the title: a determinedly New Englander’s outlook on contemporary American poetics, challenging, unorthodox, and fiercely iconoclastic: in essence, a paradoxical mix of pragmatism and rapture, ruminant reserve and reckless velocity.” —American Book Review
“[As editor of Stuart Merrill’s The White Tomb: Selected Writings], Foster has summoned Merrill from the grave in what must be one of the more important recent publishing events of modernist texts in the alternative press. . . . This is scholarship at its very best.” —Readme
“Although the focus of these interviews [in Foster’s Poetry and Poetics in a New Millennium] . . . is always on the poetry itself, there is always a willingness, even an eagerness, to risk the encounter with that slippery realm where ‘personality is transformed into words and poems.’ . . . [The interviews] try (always with trepidation) to explain the unexplainable—the transformation of human speech into poetry.” —American Book Review
“Mahrem . . . is impressive for its honest clarity, emotional intensity, and reflective thoughtfulness.” —Midwest Book Review
On The World in Time and Space: “Ed Foster & Joe Donahue have done a first-rate job in putting together a volume on poetry that matters.” —Silliman’s Blog
On The World in Time and Space: “Clearly Ed Foster is one of the most devoted and tireless laborers on behalf of poetry, and in the last instance this collection serves as a worthy capstone to Foster’s fourteen-year effort with [Talisman].” —Tom Orange, review in The Poker
On The World in Time and Space: “The version of history that is put forth here is particular to the aesthetic that Talisman House has been so impressively mapping for well over a decade.” “[W]hat emerges [in this book] is the aesthetic of Talisman House, one of the most vital publishing projects of the 20th century and beyond.” —Rain Taxi
The World in Time and Space is “one of many Talisman House books that are on any cool kid’s wish list.” —Spendid (ezine)
“The poems in Edward Foster's Mahrem are spare, elegant and elliptical. Coupled with photographs of scenes and young men from Turkey interspersed throughout the book, they combine to form a landscape of loss, broken or fleeting incomplete relationships, and ultimate aloneness and "strangeness" . . . . Foster's work is carefully poised and displays an elegant use of language.” —Oyster Boy Review
“Edward Foster is the epitome of the poet / scholar.” —The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poets and Poetry
“Foster’s work [is] . . . meticulously engineered to revelatory movement through cadence and tonality. . .” —Facts on File Companion to 20th-Century American Poetry
The poems in What He Ought To Know “are poised as a cirrus sky, knottings of cadenced desire, unruly, ‘painted blue for love.’” –Pantaloons
Foster’ poetry in What He Ought To Know “reads in its entirety like a hymn to intellectual beauty. Its mood is almost always one of deep contemplation, a search for harmony among tangled relations. Each poem is an attempt to bring an inner light to the surface of the paper. The desire for intimacy is reverential, yet restrained and warmed by a private friction. This results in a language that is measured in its tone and sensuality, that is somehow able to be personal and impersonal simultaneously. Each word has a feeling of critical distinction, as if distilled out of some more turbulent compound of longing and agitation.” –Jacket
“Edward Foster’s New and Selected is once more proof of his often astounding poetic capabilities: sureness of register, intelligence of arrangement, delicacy of emotional patterning, elegance of effect.” –Verse
On Antologie de Poezie Americană Contemporană (selections, with Leonard Schwartz, plus introduction and notes, with translations coordinated and edited by Carmen Firan and Paul Doru Mugur) “Unul dintre evenimentele editoriale ale acestui an va fi, cu siguranţă, aparariţa. . . . .” (“The publication of this book is one of the most important editorial events of the year. . . .”) –Scrisul Românesc
Edward Foster is “one of contemporary poetry’s unique voices.” –Mysic.Books.com
“If you think an evening of poetry involves mopey navel gazers muttering free-verse confessions, the final installment of the Summer Poetry Marathon will be an ear and mind opener. Featuring Edward Foster, editor of one of the country’s leading poetry magazines, Talisman, this event delivers the real thing: edgy stuff, poetry with a real bite. Also on the program are less-established poets. Who knows? You just might stumble on the next Lawrence Ferlinghetti.” –San Francisco (August 2006)
“Foster is a master of tone; there is an elegiac and crepuscular charm in many of these poems reminiscent of Cavafy and William Bronk, but there is playfulness too—sometimes Foster is even able to do both things within a single poem. . . . The reader of this collection, like TL, is finally left with no solid ground on which to stand. . . . And yet there is delight in not knowing, delight in music that lures us so skillfully out over the abyss.” —First Intensity
“Inside the body of the poems, ‘I,’ ‘you,’ ‘he,’ ‘she,’ ‘they,’ ‘our’ move almost permutatively, replacing each other. Names appear and disappear. The result is a continuous, ever changing erotic, egoless motion among points, a cadence of the mind.” —The New Review of Literature
The poems in What He Ought to Know are “solid gold . . . contemplative and rarified. . . . a stirring sense of the spiritual that speaks above all.” –Brooklyn Rail
“Born in Utopia: An Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Romanian Poetry, edited by Carmen Firan and Paul Doru Mugur with Edward Foster, makes it clear that the relative obscurity of Romanian poetry has been a historical accident, never a matter of lesser quality. . . . Born in Utopia is such an abundant book that it seems unfair to single out particular poets for mention, leaving dozens just as deserving to await discovery quietly. And there are important discoveries to be made here.” —Galatea Resurrects
“A one-of-a-kind treasury” —Midwest Book Review
“From the always intriguing Talisman House comes an anthology of Romanian poetry fetching the last 100 years — from Symbolism to Postmodernism, Born in Utopia, ed.Carmen Firan & Paul Doru Mugur & Ed Foster, with grand mechanics behind the translating machine from Adam J. Sorkin, Andrei Codrescu, Liviu Georgescu and many more. . . . You’ll want it.” —Woodburners
Vse je jezik” (“All Is Language”) by Andrej Zavrl at http://www.narobe.si/stevilka-2/knjige-recenzije.html awards Kar naj bi on vedel (Slovenian version of What He Ought To Know) four stars.
“Even readers somewhat familiar with Romanian poetry of the last one hundred years or so may have difficulty absorbing the wealth of material in . . . [Born in Utopia].” —World Literature Today
“[A] shoutout to Ed Foster and Talisman House, for bringing so many international poetries to American and English speakers. . . . these are thrilling poems [in Born in Utopia], no duds, period.” —The Poetry Project Newsletter
DRY LANDSCAPES IN CEZANNE
for Simon Pettet
A long time imagining these do not hurt:
discord, rebellion, something letting go --
contention as a pleasure
to the celebrant: his language as a dream
to tell us how we know the voice
in spite of color, texture, mood.
(As if the medieval sacrament were grey
or in the sacrifice, his blood were dry.)
In solitude, we see him
as if one who makes his forms
in such a way that no one else will know
that orange, brown and green are false.
He makes us think that we, the subjects, are alone.
it’s always he who is inside:
as if he kept the sound so low
we’d barely hear the voice beneath the form.
Intensities of color disappear;
his pigments thin around the edge
and, loosened from the canvas,
their syllables break free.
Sweet phrases seem to be his
of pleasure on the way to rhetoric,
as if he had no reason to atone.
THE PURITAN FROM BLACHERNAE
for Joe Donahue
Mehmet the Conqueror wished for his pleasure the son of the Grand Duke. The young man was lovely, his skin almost olive. But the Grand Duke believed the Sultan would corrupt his son and said no. So the Grand Duke watched the Sultan’s soldiers kill his son, and then the soldiers made the Grand Duke kneel before the Sultan and kiss his boots as he in turn was killed.
Iron chairs on the portico,
the pillars stacked in the garden.
In Istanbul there’s everything:
the dissenter dies kissing the boots
of the man he’d betray.
The Minotaur’s lost in the palace;
the draperies hold odors of spice.
Bellini sketches the Sultan,
his peacocks walk in the rain.
The thunderclouds thicken,
but no one knows not to remain.
The tulips on columns promise
us joy. Up Turkish steps, the
young men grow richer in trade.
Looking through the window
at the boys walking home,
she magically could call the daylight
back, remembered climes and sound.
It's winter now. (I know her mind.)
Feel this: the icicles that will not
melt. Remember then this time.
Lay your fingers on her chair. She
cannot age. In this, she cannot be.
That icicle divides the boys
from that old time when some
believed she had the right to rule.
Try to touch her through the icy glass.
Remember time. Break in and
run your fingers in her frost.
One winter's day, you had a
friend, not her (her role was then
to teach). You ask for warmth.
Go back: decide. Hear the stories
made for ears that now
no longer hear.
Think only sound. Don't look outside
the frost or glass today. Only hear.
In her snow, the children have their day.
You would not hurt. They freeze,
made into ice. Hear their icy fingers
crack. Close your eyes, imagining
their heads now make the sound of glass.
Remember time. Hear them shout, and let
that part be in your mind. The dogs can't
bark, and icicles reclaim the world.
The mothers search and cannot find.
The fathers search and cannot find.
The family is a thing we all forget.
And then we know the word
because of sound. We do not see.
The children cannot slide along
the snow. Listen to the fingers
crack. The cracking only
says you can.
I cannot reason what she wants.
As if to hear it said would make it care.
We grant that she is clever and denotes
herself as capable and kind. We recall
her sitting in a lounge chair late in June,
waiting for the sound. She was a fascination
to her child. Her husband liked her, too.
Now she feels herself along, waiting
for the time. But what will matter if
it's not the thing she was?
Smiles never tell you what you need
to know. We come to her because of
ease, the way our shoulders languish
next to hers. Since people didn't seem
to come again, or want to come,
she manufactured how she felt with
This one thought clothes make the man.
Just one day the mirror showed
him what he was and liked. Looking out
the window all he saw was overcast.
He watched the animals outside his bedroom.
In his mind, he ran across the snow
like squirrels and cats he saw.
Squirrels, he knew, can tell what's
deeply underneath the snow.
Just one day he saw him, too, the way he was.
The sky was overcast. No one saw,
guessing what he saw. He saw the dark, black
snow, but in his mind, he looked into the mirror
and found the parts to hide.
Thus the world was right:
clothes really make the man.
Trying to be solemn, to elevate the
self into a Christian mind,
where each one counts, and,
knowing just the same, "respects"
the selves of others. What a
dream! How to be a sparrow in the
snow! -- the snow as white as every
church he'd ever known. Conflict over all:
Armageddon as an angry name. How good
it might have been to be the goodly man,
the father of us all.
How good it might have been to be
the one his child might want.
Or so he saw.
As for the child himself,
he's doing fine.