Rebecca Foust is the author of the books Paradise Drive, All That Gorgeous Pitiless Song, and, in collaboration with artist Lorna Stevens, God, Seed: Poetry & Art about the Natural World. She has also published three chapbooks: The Unexploded Ordinance Bin, Dark Card and Mom’s Canoe. A new book, ONLY, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2022.
I grew up in rust belt Pennsylvania, a paradoxical place of farmlands and factories, mountains and strip mines. My twin brother and I were first-generation college, and I graduated from Smith College and Stanford Law School. After several decades in Northern California spent raising children and advocating for students with learning challenges, I left law to pursue writing, earning an MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson in 2010.
My seventh book of poetry, ONLY, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2022. The Unexploded Ordnance Bin won the Swan Scythe Poetry Chapbook Award. A book of sonnets, Paradise Drive, won the 2015 Press 53 Award for Poetry and was reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement, Georgia Review, Harvard Review, Hudson Review, and others. All That Gorgeous Pitiless Song won the Many Mountains Moving Book Prize in 2010, the same year a collaboration with artist Lorna Stevens, God, Seed: Poetry & Art About the Natural World, won the Foreword Book of the Year Award for Poetry. Mom’s Canoe and Dark Card, consecutive recipients of the Robert Phillips Chapbook Poetry Prize, were released by Texas Review Press in 2008 and 2009.
My poems, book reviews, essays, and short stories are widely published in journals and also anthologies including Healing the Divide: Poems of Kinship and Connection (Green Writers Press 2019); How Lovely the Ruins, Foreword by Elizabeth Alexander (Spiegel & Grau 2017); Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing (Pearson 2015); and Literature, A Pocket Anthology (Penguin 2011).
Recognitions include the 2019 Pablo Neruda Award (judged by Kaveh Akbar), the 2018 CP Cavafy Award, the 2015 James Hearst Poetry Prize (Jane Hirshfield), American Literary Review’s 2015 Fiction Prize (Garth Greenwell), and the 2015 Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize. I’ve been fortunate to receive fellowships from the Frost Place, Hedgebrook, MacDowell, Sewanee, and the Westchester Poetry Conference and, in 2017, appointment as Marin County Poet Laureate where my “Poetry as Sanctuary” project featured events with immigrant readers.
My work includes teaching, most recently for the 2020 Frost Place Poetry Seminar, and event organizing–the popular Poetry World Series co-founded with Melissa Stein has been drawing large audiences for 10 years at SF Litquake, Brooklyn Book Festival, and other venues. I also co-produce a local TV show (Rising Voices), volunteer on the board of Marin Poetry Center, and read fiction for Narrative Magazine. Since 2014, I’ve been the poetry editor Women’s Voices for Change, writing a weekly column that emphasizes diversity and the poetry of women over 40.
All readings below are online via zoom and commence at the times shown in Pacific Time:
Mon, 8/3/20, 4 pm PST: Reading with Patricia Smith at The Frost Place Poetry Seminar; view at https://www.facebook.com/TheFrostPlace/videos/605076770198559
Sun, 9/20/20, 7 pm PST: Petaluma Poetry Walk reading hosted by Sandra Anfang at Aqus Café, CANCELLED due to wildfires.
Wed, 10/6/20, 4:30 pm PST: Book launch reading for The Map of Every Lilac Leaf: Poets Respond to the Smith College Museum of Art, with Gina Franco, Laurie Ann Guerrero, Jessica Jacobs, Gail Mazur, and Abe Louise Young. Register at
Sat, 10/10/20, 7 pm PST: Marin Poetry Center Bridges to Poetry book group discussion leader, reading John Murillo’s Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry (Four Way Books 2020); register at http://www.millvalleylibrary.org/events/cals.htm
Sun, 10/11/20, 1 pm: 15th Anniversary Celebration for Press 53, Reading with Marjorie Hudson. Registration details TBA.
Wed, 10/21/20, 3-5:30 pm PST: “Poetry and Patient Care: Fine-Tuning Our Listening” with Jim Ferris and Kate Daniels and hosted by Owen Lewis at American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry’s 67th Annual Meeting, Session ID: 23165. Register at https://aacap.confex.com/aacap/2020/meetinginfo.cgi/
10/22-24/20: Nimrod Journal Conference for Readers and Writers, reading for Pablo Neruda Prize, CANCELLED due to Covid-19.
Fri, 11/6/20, 6 pm PST: Blue Light Press Reading with Ellery Akers and Maxine Chernoff, hosted by Diane Frank. Registration details TBA.
Sun, 11/15/20: Great Books of San Francisco, “Poetry & Form” lecture (10-12 am PST) and Interactive Reading and Interview conducted by Cathy Shea (2-4 pm PST). I will also host an OPEN MIC on SAT 11/14 at 6 pm PST. Register at https://www.greatbooksncal.org/poetry-weekend
The Unexploded Ordnance Bin
An ENTROPY “Best Book of 2019” and SPD-recommended book.
Featured on Tracy K. Smith’s The Slowdown on 2/5/20, https://www.slowdownshow.org/episode/2020/02/05/313-abeyance
2020 Poetry By the Sea Book prize Runner-Up and 2020 Julie Suk book prize longlist finalist.
Reviews and Features:
Lawrence Tjernell, http://www.thebanyanreview.org/issue2summer2020/lawrencetjernell/
Lorna Knowles Blake, for Rhino https://rhinopoetry.org/reviews/the-unexploded-ordnance-bin-by-rebecca-foust-reviewed-by-lorna-knowles-blake?fbclid=IwAR3DDGlSkT2y3UVUyeZM2u3_GWtLzuzokavHPej1itPBsKabtbGXaLjtuBk
Susan Gunter for the Harvard Review, http://www.harvardreview.org/b…/the-unexploded-ordnance-bin/
Mike Northern, Word Gathering and Goodreads, https://wordgathering.com/vol14/issue1/reviews/foust/
Sian Killingsworth, Poetry Café, https://thepoetrycafe.online/category/reviews/
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
“The poetry is witty and surprisingly engaging, as if Sylvia Plath had been crossed with the humorist Erma Bombeck, who pioneered a woman talking openly of her working class origins.” Thompson, N.S. “The Motionless Pilgrim.” Times Literary Supplement. June 2016.
“Bay Area Poet Rebecca Foust emerges as an original voice in contemporary poetry.” Diana Whitney. “Poetry: John Burnside, Jane Hirshfield, Rebecca Foust, Deborah Landau.” San Francisco Chronicle. July 2015.
“The counterpoint of authentic sentiment and a kind of Augustan wit in – think Pope and Dryden, but also Juvenal – is quite original.” Wilson, Frank. “Paradise Drive: In the Lap of Plenty, Wishing for Better.” Philadelphia Inquirer. November 2015.
“Foust’s language makes me think of Nabokov and how dark and light he can be in the same phrase.” Rader, Dean. “Thou Hast Thy Music Too: Three books for Autumn.” Huffington Post. December 2017.
“This book proves that the record of humankind will be found in poetry. It is funny and compelling. It aches with truth.” Cavalieri, Grace. “April 2015 Exemplars: National Poetry Month’s Best Picks.” Washington Independent Review of Books. April 2015.
“A bravura composition, poems packed with compelling images.” Berman, Barbara. “National Poetry Month Picks.” Rumpus. April 2015.
“Foust’s command of allegory, her range of sonnets, and her examinations of self and society result in a compelling and timely collection.” Tavel, Adam. Book review. The Georgia Review. Fall 2015.
“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.” —Blake, Lorna Knowels. “Review of Paradise Drive by Rebecca Foust, The Bus Driver’s Threnody by Michael Spence, and To Forget Venice by Peg Boyers.” Hudson Review. Spring 2015.
“Paradise Drive is an ambitious and stunning work.” Logsdin, Rich. Poet Lore. Vol. 110 No. 3/4 Fall 2015 .
“Foust’s quite considerable accomplishment is to have written a book that is vivacious and filled with snark while almost never losing sight of an underlying seriousness.” Rossi, Lee. “Rebecca Foust: Paradise Drive.” Smartish Pace. July 29, 2015.
“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.” McClatchey, M. B. “Paradise Drive by Rebecca Foust.” The Collagist. April 2015.
“Neither confession nor caricature, Foust’s tale of her Pilgrim’s progress is both specific to the speaker’s time and place, and yet universal, emotionally painful and, in places, completely hilarious.” Gray Jr., Elizabeth. “Review of Paradise Drive,” Harvard Review. March 31, 2016.
“Foust has achieved something remarkable here. We saw it in earlier books: a consummate craft that does not intrude.” Woodword, Anne Harding. “Anne Harding Woodword on Rebecca Foust,” Innisfree Poetry Journal. Issue 22.
“Rebecca Foust strings more than eighty [sonnets] together in this biting, rhythmically haunting collection.” Sutherland, Matt. “Fables, Spirits, and How Not to Lose Your Head to Poetry.” Foreword Review Magazine. Fall 2015.
“Vaguely reminiscent of Dorothy Parker’s darkly brilliant “Resumé.” Clarke, Brooke. Review of Aaron Poochigian’s Mr. Either/Or and Paradise Drive. Able Muse Review. Winter 2017, No. 24.
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