Tonya Foster

'The performance of freedom'

Close Listening with Tonya Foster and Charles Bernstein

Photo by Al Filreis.

Editorial note: The following conversation is from Close Listening, a program hosted by Charles Bernstein and produced by Clocktower Radio, in collaboration with PennSound, on June 18, 2013, at Studio 215 in New York. It was transcribed by Mariah Macias and subsequently edited for publication. The conversation, between Charles Bernstein and Tonya Foster, discusses Foster’s then-forthcoming poetry collection, Swarm of Bees in High Court (Belladonna*, 2015), as well as topics surrounding Foster’s writing process and African American poetry communities such as Umbra and Cave Canem.

Editorial note: The following conversation is from Close Listening, a program hosted by Charles Bernstein and produced by Clocktower Radio, in collaboration with PennSound, on June 18, 2013, at Studio 215 in New York. It was transcribed by Mariah Macias and subsequently edited for publication. The conversation, between Charles Bernstein and Tonya Foster, discusses Foster’s then-forthcoming poetry collection, A Swarm of Bees in High Court (Belladonna*, 2015), as well as topics surrounding Foster’s writing process and African American poetry communities such as Umbra and Cave Canem.

Knots of a Woman (PoemTalk #145)

Tonya Foster, 'A Swarm of Bees in High Court'

Tonya Foster

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Stephanie Burt, Bonnie Costello, Anna Strong Safford, and Al Filreis met up at the Woodberry Poetry Room in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to record a special episode of PoemTalk about Tonya Foster’s A Swarm of Bees in High Court. A section of that book, published in 2015 by Belladonna*, is a sequence of haiku pairs. The group focused on five pairs — those on pages 38, 39, 42, 46, and 50. The haikus on page 50 form the final entries in a long part of the book titled “In / Somniloquies.” Tonya Foster made a special recording of these poems just for use in this PoemTalk episode; they will also be added to her PennSound page.

Not detainable (PoemTalk #130)

Gwendolyn Brooks, 'Riot'

From left: Amber Rose Johnson, Tonya Foster, and Davy Knittle.

Amber Rose Johnson, Davy Knittle, and Tonya Foster joined Al Filreis to discuss the poem “Riot” by Gwendolyn Brooks. “Riot” is the title poem in the (now rare) chapbook published by Dudley Randall’s Detroit-based Broadside Press in 1969, and has been collected variously, including in the book Blacks (1994). The Eclipse site offers a PDF copy of the original Riot chapbook. The recording used as the basis of this PoemTalk conversation comes from a reading Brooks gave at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City on May 3, 1983. 

Making the invisible visible

Jennifer Scappettone and Tonya Foster in conversation, 2010

Editorial note: The following conversation has been adapted from an Emergency Reading Series event hosted by Julia Bloch and Sarah Dowling on January 21, 2010, at the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. It was transcribed by Michael Nardone and edited for publication; additional commentary by the speakers is included below in brackets. The conversation, between Jennifer Scappettone and Tonya Foster, explores topics ranging from Disneyfication to the Greek chorus.

Editorial note: The following conversation has been adapted from an Emergency Reading Series event hosted by Julia Bloch and Sarah Dowling on January 21, 2010, at the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. It was transcribed by Michael Nardone and edited for publication; additional commentary by the speakers is included below in brackets.

Tonya Foster reads 'Techo Aisles' plus Erica Hunt on 'Swarm of Bees in High Court'

©Charles Bernstein (Jan. 8, 2008)

My video of Tonya Foster reading “Techo Aisles” on Feb. 20, 2016:

A slowing 3: Brave intimate body

The consolations of art are limited.  As are we. It is supreme arrogance to imagine otherwise. We must, nonetheless, swell these limits, make them swollen to the point, even, of suffering. This is the consolation of art – messy consolation though it sounds. Simone Weil tells us, “It is an act of cowardice to seek from (or wish to give) the people we love any other consolation than that which works of art give us” (65). It is brave, then, to insist on attending acutely to that art – and the everything else it tries to get at – what is unsayable and yet worth attention.  This work is the hard stuff of art. 

The hard work of the mind considering its attention – its ethical demands – is poetry’s task. 

Performance of Freedom: Tonya Foster on Close Listening

reading and conversation

Reading from Swarms of Bees in High Court (24:50): MP3
Conversation with Charles Bernstein (45:20): MP3

recorded June 18, 2013

Tonya's Lost New Orleans

video portrait of Tonya Foster (1/8/2008)

 Tonya grew up in New Orleans and was heading down for the Spring. Now she was graduate student at CUNY, about to write a dissertation of poetry and place. We had just eaten in the new sushi joint across the street. I asked her what she missed most about what is gone in New Orleans.
January 8, 2008
(mp4, 37 seconds, 27.6 mb)

NOTE: Web Log videos are now available in full screen: click on the icon. Full-screen will also now work on the previous videos I have posted:

'Back of'

Index, bibliography, catalog, list

Image by Noah Saterstrom
Image by Noah Saterstrom

This post explores the poem as index, bibliography, catalog, or otherwise arranged list. I want to consider the ways each piece overflows, suggesting threads that the listener might follow or complicating the idea of order under the guise of an ordering structure. I want to pay attention to the ways these recordings open up into the works of other writers and artists in addition to reflecting back upon the concerns of their respective authors.

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