Monday, December 2, 2019

Brett Foster*

Brett Foster (1973―2015) is a poet and Renaissance scholar who was serving as an Associate Professor of English at Wheaton College, at the time of his death. His scholarly writing includes Shakespeare’s Life (2012), Shakespeare Through the Ages: The Sonnets (2009), Shakespeare Through the Ages: Hamlet (2008), and Rome (2005).

The following comment about Brett Foster from Alan Jacobs, author of The Narnian, was reported in the Chicago Tribune:
-----"As a poet, he was still growing when he died, which is one
-----of the saddest things of all. The poems he wrote in the
-----aftermath of his diagnosis were the most powerful and intense
-----he had ever written, and I grieve when I think about what
-----sorts of things he might have written had he been given more
-----time. But in everything he wrote and in everything that he did,
-----there was an exceptional generosity of spirit."

A new poetry collection ― which Brett had largely completed before his death ― Extravagant Rescues was published this summer from Triquarterly Books.

The following poem is from his collection from The Garbage Eater (2011, Triquarterly).

The Advent Calendar

Through the ear the Word of God,
pressed on cardboard, impregnates
with dignity the sleeping Mary,
whose child, the creed says,
“was conceived by the Holy Spirit.”

So the Church Fathers saw it,
and for portraits such as this you love
their resourceful escapes, the saving
image in the face of language.

It’s true, mystery is captured
by the world we know, but does it
then diminish? No clever gesture meant
to cover, no Vatican fig leaf,
these constructions drive belief

to necessary crisis. They give dimension,
savagely, and manifest the questions
given up on. Take away the stars
and glitter from this Advent calendar

(found along a sidewalk sale in June,
dollar ninety-nine), what remains
are rows of squares. You’re left
with only days, bare and perforated,
a liturgy of doors, perfect symbol.

Don’t days, after all, amount to this,
lined up, surreptitious? You open
and examine them, you count them
and you count them down.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Brett Foster: first post, second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.