Nemec Foster was born near Cleveland, Ohio in 1950 to John and Helen Nemec. All four of her grandparents were
immigrants from southern Poland--a fact which has played an
important role in a number of Foster’s poems, particularly those
published in her book, Amber Necklace from Gdansk.
She graduated magna
cum laude from Aquinas College (Grand Rapids, Michigan) in 1972 with
a B.A. in social science. After receiving her undergraduate degree,
Foster worked at the Center for Environmental Study in Grand Rapids
as a social demographer.
She married Anthony
Foster in 1974 and moved to Detroit; this change in her life began a
significant process--she began writing poetry and gained critical
support for her work from writer and poet Faye Kicknosway, who
taught at Wayne State University in the early 1970’s. Kicknosway
encouraged her to develop her craft at the graduate level and in
1977 Foster was accepted into the M.F.A. program at Goddard College
in Vermont (the program has subsequently moved to Warren Wilson
College in North Carolina). There, Foster studied under such noted
poets and writers as Lisel Mueller, Stephen Dobyns, Ellen Bryant
Voigt, Heather McHugh, Donald Hall, Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff,
John Irving, Louise Gluck, and Robert Hass. She graduated in 1979
with the Board of Directors’ highest commendation and received her
MFA in creative writing.
From 1980-2002, she
taught poetry workshops throughout the state of Michigan for the
Creative-Writers-in-Schools Program which was coordinated by the
Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs. She has also
taught poetry and writing classes on the college level at Ferris
State University and Aquinas College. In addition, Foster has given
readings and been a guest lecturer in poetry at numerous colleges
and universities such as the University of Michigan, Michigan State
University, Wayne State University, Hope College, Calvin College,
Loyola University (Chicago), Lake County Community College
(Illinois), University of Missouri--Kansas City (where she was
interviewed on the NPR program New Letters on the Air), and Grand
Rapids Community College.
Foster is the author
of nine collections of poetry: A History of the Body (Coffee House
Press, 1987); A Modern Fairy Tale: The Baba Yaga Poems (Ridgeway
Press, 1992); Trying to Balance the Heart (Sun Dog Press, 1993);
Living in the Fire Nest (Ridgeway Press, 1996) which was a finalist
for the Poet’s Prize; Contemplating the Heavens (Ridgeway Press,
2001); Amber Necklace from Gdansk (Louisiana State University Press,
2001) which was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Award in Poetry;
Listen to the Landscape (Eerdmans Publishing, 2006) which was
short-listed for the Michigan Notable Book Award; Ten Songs from
Bulgaria (Cervena Barva Press, 2008); and Talking Diamonds (New Issues Press, 2009) which was a finalist for ForeWord Magazine's 2010 Book of the Year in Poetry.
Over 300 of her poems
have appeared in various magazines and journals such as The Georgia
Review, Nimrod, North American Review, New American Writing,
Quarterly West, Indiana Review, DoubleTake, Mid-American Review, Connecticut Review, America, and Passages North.
Her work has also been published in major anthologies in the U.S.
and Great Britain, been exhibited in museums and galleries,
translated in Europe, and produced for the stage. Her chapbook,
Contemplating the Heavens, was the inspiration for jazz musician
Steve Talaga’s original composition and CD that was nominated for
the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music. In 2013 her collaboration with Hungarian musician Laszlo Slomovits was released on a CD, Cry of Freedom. The project was inspired by Foster's poems from the chapbook, Ten Songs from Bulgaria, which Slomovits rendered into original music compositions and songs. From 2003-2005 she served as the
first poet laureate of Grand Rapids.
Foster has won
numerous honors for her poetry including the International Creative
Arts Award from the Polish American Historical Association, finalist
for the Michigan Governor’s Artist Award, two grants from the
Michigan Council for the Arts, fellowships from the Arts Foundation
of Michigan and ArtServe Michigan, a teaching fellowship from the
National Writers’ Voice Project, a book award nomination from the Academy of American Poets, and numerous nominations for the Pushcart Prize from poets, writers, and editors.
In 1997 she founded
the Contemporary Writers Series (CWS) at Aquinas College and
currently is a member of the Series’ programming committee. One of
the most successful reading series in the country, the CWS has
featured such acclaimed poets and writers as Seamus Heaney, Michael
Ondaatje, Pete Carey, Maxine Kumin, Lisel Mueller, Joy Harjo,
Li-Young Lee, Linda Pastan, Clarence Major, Judith Ortiz Cofer,
Thomas Lynch, Linda Hogan, Scott Turow, Luis Rodriguez, Robin Hemley, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and Jaimy Gordon.
Linda Nemec Foster resides in Michigan with her husband, Dr. Anthony Foster. They have two children: Brian (Stephanie) of Rockford, Illinois and Ellen of Troy, New York.
Courtesy of Robert Turney