Sunday, April 13, 2008

Introduction for Tonya Foster (by erica Kaufman)

Tonya Foster is the author of poetry, fiction, and essays that have been published in a variety of journals from Callaloo to The Hat to Western Humanities Review. She is the author of A Swarm of Bees in High Court (Belladonna Books) and co-editor of Third Mind: Creative Writing Through Visual Art. She is currently completing a cross-genre piece on New Orleans, and Monkey Talk, an inter-genre piece about race, paranoia, and surveillance.

In “A Mathematics of Chaos,” Tonya Foster writes, “The act of writing involves a similar process of construction and resistance.” This quote is one of several interstices where a gracefully semi-disjunctive narrative breaks for questioning. Like a moment when the work reflects on its own creation. (aside: I am reminded of something I read describing Cha’s Dictee as “autobiography that transcends the self.”)

Another moment of this sort—“Walking forward while looking back is a natural process through which cities and poems come into being.” Foster is architectural in her ability to construct cities via poetics—whether the place be Harlem, Jersey City, New Orleans, haiku, or a Woman Named Kong. This variant architectonic variance is partially because of Foster’s amazing ear for how words can and should bump up against each other, and partially because of her pioneering recognition of the marginalized (diction, region, politic).

As Foster writes in A Swarm of Bees in High Court “When Moses parted/the Red Sea as if it were/hair, was he tender?” Here I am reminded of Anne Waldman’s “Prelude: My Long and Only Afterlife” (from A Vow to Poetry) in which she writes, “Past is never over, will you learn that now?” then later, “Regarded with a fortress mentality the reclamation of nation, of people.” And so we ask the question, what can poetry do? (active verb)

“In memory, the/eye is quicker”


“Bullets can/ blot a page, train an eye to/ follow thought and sound”

Please welcome Tonya Foster.


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