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Rebecca Foust is the Poet Laureate of Marin County and author of the books Paradise Drive; All That Gorgeous Pitiless Song; and God, Seed: Poetry & Art About the Natural World; as well as the chapbooks Dark Card and Mom’s Canoe.

 

Welcome

Please check out the Readings page to find out the date for Rebecca’s next event.

About

I grew up in western Pennsylvania, a paradoxical place of farmlands and forests, quarries and strip mines. Scholarships enabled me to earn degrees from Smith College and Stanford Law School, and I relocated to Northern California where I live now. After years of private practice followed by years of advocacy for kids with autism, I left law to pursue my writing. The year I turned 50, I went back to school, earning an MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson in January 2010.

Paradise Drive won the 2015 Press 53 Prize for Poetry and was widely reviewed in venues including the Times Literary Supplement, San Francisco Chronicle, Philadelphia Inquirer, Huffington Post, and journals including Georgia Review, Harvard Review, Hudson Review, Pleiades, Poet Lore, and Smartish Pace. My first full length book, All That Gorgeous Pitiless Song won the Many Mountains Moving Book Prize and was released in 2010, the same year that God, Seed: Poetry & Art About the Natural World won the Foreword Review Book of the Year Award for Poetry. Mom’s Canoe and Dark Card, recipients of the Robert Phillips Chapbook Poetry Prize in consecutive years, were released by Texas Review Press in 2008 and 2009.

My poems, book reviews, essays, and short stories are widely published. Recent recognitions include the 2015 James Hearst Poetry Prize judged by Jane Hirshfield, American Literary Review’s 2015 Fiction Prize judged by Garth Greenwell the 2015 Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize, and fellowships from MacDowell, Sewanee, and the Frost Place. In 2017 I was appointed Marin County Poet Laureate, and my project description is below. I’m the poetry editor and write a weekly column for Women’s Voices for Change, and an assistant editor reading fiction for Narrative Magazine.

My 2017-19 Marin County Poet Laureate project, “Poetry as Sanctuary,” ties in with California’s status as a Sanctuary State and also has a broader application. Poetry is a sacred space – church, a hospital, a hospice bed – offering refuge for our most private, urgent, and otherwise ineffable expressions. Reading and writing it opens an escape from technology, stress, life-overload, grief, and other emotional pain. Perhaps the most important service poetry can provide now is respite from or a way to respond to current political events. Poetry can build community, and I’d like to use it to raise the awareness and empathy for what is at stake under the new administration for our undocumented immigrant population here in Marin. To this end, I’m organizing a series of community open mikes on themes such as Peace, Immigration & Diversity, and Gender, along with readings featuring immigrant poets in the county libraries.

Appearances

December

12/3/17            Community Open Mike: The Gender of Things Mill Valley Library, 3 pm

12/4/17            Host book launch for Javier Zamora’s UNACCOMPANIED, Book Passage Marin, 7 pm

12/5/17            Community Reading: ForWords Students and Poetry Mask artist Alejandro Lopez, Fairfax Library, 7 pm

12/8/17            Javier Zamora at The Branson School, reading & reception, special invite

12/12/17          Frost Place Fellows Reading with Robert Hass and Christina Hutchins

2018

2/24/18            International Association of Sufism Songs of the Soul Poetry and Sacred Music Festival series, Embassy Suites, San Rafael, time TBA

2/xx/18            Teach a three-session class on the Ode to ForWords students

4/24/18            Host Copper Canyon Reading with Dana Levin, Dean Rader, Melissa Stein, and Javier Zamora, Mill Valley Library, 7 pm

4/27/18            Arbor Day celebration, Marin Civic Center, 12 pm

5/11/18            Poetry World Series, Mill Valley Library, 7 pm

5/19/18            Ina Coolbrith Feature, 2 pm

5/xx/17            Emcee Marin Poetry Center High School awards ceremony at The Marin School, 7 pm

xx/xx/18          Novato Library Latin@ Reading, 7 pm

 

Books

Paradise Drive
Available at Press 53

“There is great music in these poems, and sonnet after sonnet is masterful. Not since Berryman’s Henry have I been so engaged by a persona: Pilgrim, who ‘like most of we’ is good and bad, hapless sometimes, other times approaching wisdom, always sending deeper and deeper her primary roots.” — Thomas Lux

“In Rebecca Foust’s splendid book-length sonnet sequence, Paradise Drive, we come upon a Pilgrim contemplating the deadly sins while hiding out in the bathrooms at some of Marin County, California’s swankiest parties. Foust drives her Keatsian sensibility straight into the 21st century of terrorism and autism, divorce and yoga, soldiers and syringes, booze and valet parking, determined to prove that truth makes beauty.” — Molly Peacock

“Foust does it: she reinvents the sonnet form, making it a unit of expression again, not a museum piece sitting on its plinth, forlornly wishing we’d quit paying homage to it. She strews the individual poems with savagely sparkling jewels of satire, insight, and wit. This is a masterful book, yes, and also a great deal of fun to read.” — James Cummins

“Rebecca Foust has created a Pilgrim who leads us from the hardscrabble existence and despair of Altoona, Pennsylvania where she was raised, to the ultra-wealth and despair of Marin County, California, where she lived in the first decade of this century. The poems of Paradise Drive are powerful and figurative, with a very strong voice.” — Tom Lombardo

“There’s a luminous quality to perfectly ordered sonnets, especially as they house smart stylish observations. Foust is learned, and witty, and so the Pilgrim is someone we come to love with her present day jargon, classical ideas, and a CNN precision in reporting. This book proves that the record of humankind will be found in poetry. She allows a comment on our culture with its gluttony and deprivations. It’s funny and compelling. It aches with truth. ” — Grace Cavalieri

“April 2015 Exemplars: National Poetry Month’s Best Picks,” —  Washington Independent Review of Books

“Foust’s language is compelling; her skill and craft authoritative and assured. It would be hard not to read this collection through in one sitting although it is equally pleasurable to take the time to read and re-read these poems. Her registers range from wry—at times, downright snarky—to the elegiac.” — Lorna Knowles Blake, The Hudson Review

“What made Chaucer relevant to his time is what makes Foust relevant and compelling for us today: keen attention to craft; courage to wrestle with serious themes; and a humor that both betrays and saves us.” — B. McClatchey, The Collagist

“A bravura composition, poems packed with compelling images that never slow things down, as in “Death by Dodge Sportsman,” a piece I think readers, including Fairchild, will appreciate as much as I do.” — Barbara Berman, “Nat’l Poetry Month Book Picks” for Rumpus

“Foust achieves considerable force by using the precision of a classic poetic form–the sonnet–to portray something that is by contrast messy and contemporary: our post 9/11 American landscape of rapacious materialism and spiritual hunger. Pilgrim is a complex and flawed every person whose quest for ‘options’ is timely and universal.” —Bob Wakes, Coffee Spew

“Foust allows both herself and her reader the opportunity for creativity and exploration without slamming the door in the face of readers with lesser literary interest or background, an approach that works well for those of us who dwell somewhere between a literary Marin County and a literary Altoona. . . It’s hard to say enough about Rebecca Foust’s Paradise Drive. Go buy the book.” — Mike Northern, Wordgathering

God, Seed (Tebot Bach Press 2010)

God, Seed is a book of environmental poetry with art by local artist Lorna Stevens.

God, Seed is lyrical, intense, and concerned with issues of our planet’s survival. Foust has a fierce yet loving attitude towards nature and human nature. Many of Foust’s luminous, insightful poems are paired with paintings by gifted artist Lorna Stevens. This is a book to read and treasure.” — Susan Terris

God, Seed, a beautiful mix of words and images…light and deep. Good for the eye, mind and heart.” — William Wiley

“Spring is springing as I experience what the author and artist have given me and I am moved to recollect, in tranquility, as the poet said, all the infinite gifts I’ve received and might yet find in the glorious world, both human and otherwise. Rebecca Foust and Lorna Stevens are to be congratulated and profoundly thanked. Made my day. So, thanks, and more thanks.” — William Kittredge, author of Hole in the Sky, The Willow Field, and Owning It All and producer of A River Runs Through It.

Available at SPD Books, Powells Books, Barnes and Noble, and other bookstores online.

All That Gorgeous, Pitiless Song 
(Many Mountains Moving Press, 2010)

All That Gorgeous, Pitiless Song brims with amplitude and vitality. By virtue of her unsentimental warmth of spirit, Foust brings to life an immense range of experience and feeling. This poet’s emotional intelligence correlates, too, with her formal skill, that unique talent for phrase and rhythm with which she makes a whole world palpable, from the hugest events that mark a life to those moments as subtle as ‘some nuance you knew once like breath.’ Rebecca Foust is a superb poet, and All That Gorgeous, Pitiless Song is a tremendous book.”  — Peter Campion

“Rebecca Foust moves us with passion and intelligence as she broods over what ‘divides false / from true.’ Her voice, attuned to beauty and hope though often engaged with the hard news of life, startles in its honest, unstinting inventiveness. She writes of generations, of hardscrabble origins, of striving against odds, of motherhood, nature, intimate triumphs and woes. This is poetry of the greatest promise, a book not to be missed.” — Barry Spacks

“I find the poems astonishingly strong and beautiful. It’s not common for me to find an unpublished collection of poems as good as this one.” — Susan Griffin

Available at SPD Books, Powells Books, Barnes and Noble, and other bookstores online.

 Mom’s Canoe (Texas Review Press, 2009)

Mom’s Canoe presents poetry about the Allegheny Mountain Region of western Pennsylvania, “in all its splendor and grief.” — Matthew Lippman

Candy Plant. Paper Mill. Strip Mine. In Mom’s Canoe, Rebecca Foust recovers “each loved thing lost, sieved/ with bitter salt and ash.” She holds local myths, fossil records, family lore and memory to the brutal and compassionate light of poetry. — Robin Becker

Dark Card (Texas Review Press, 2008)

Dark Card explores themes related to raising a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild autism disorder.

“Fiercely smart and an absolute warrior, Foust’s intelligence and courage drive every difficult poem home.” — Molly Peacock

“These poems will break and heal your heart, their rage, hope, insight and love carried by a poetic power as targeted as a bullet-train.” — Barry Spacks