Foerster, Richard 1949–

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Foerster, Richard 1949–


Born October 29, 1949, in New York, NY; son of Alfons (a mechanic) and Elizabeth (a homemaker) Foerster; married Valerie Malinowski, October 28, 1972 (divorced, 1985). Ethnicity: "German American." Education: Fordham University, B.A., 1971; University of Virginia, M.A., 1972; Manhattanville College, teacher certification, 1975. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Episcopalian. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening.


Home—York Beach, ME. Office—Chautauqua Literary Journal, P.O. Box 613, Chautauqua, NY 14722. E-mail—[email protected].


Clarence L. Barnhart, Inc., Bronxville, NY, assistant editor, 1973-76; teacher of advanced English, Bronxville, 1975; Prentice-Hall, Educational Books Division, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, language arts editor and department head, 1976-79; Chelsea magazine, New York, NY, associate editor, 1978-94, editor, 1994-2001; Chautauqua Literary Journal, Chautauqua, NY, editor, 2002—. University of Maine at Farmington, adjunct professor of creative writing, 1994, 2002, 2003; Writers' Center at Chautauqua, writer in residence, summers, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2002, 2004.


PEN American Center, National Book Critics Circle, Society for the Arts, Religion and Contemporary Culture (fellow).


"Discovery"/Nation award for poetry, 1985; Brodie Herndon Memorial Prize, Poetry Society of Virginia, 1988, 1991; R.T. McDonald Award, California State University Foundation, 1990; Bess Hokin Prize, Poetry magazine, 1992; fellow of National Endowment for the Arts, 1995, and Maine Arts Commission, 1997; Amy Lowell poetry traveling scholarship, 2000-01; fellowships from MacDowell Colony, 1985, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, 1987, 1988, 1991, 1995, 2006, Yaddo, 1992, 1996, 1997, Hawthornden Castle, 1993, Fundación Valparaiso, 1997 and 2007, Camargo Foundation, 1999, Tasmanian Writers' Centre, 2002, and La Napoule Arts Foundation, 2004.


Sudden Harbor (poetry), Orchises Press (Alexandria, VA), 1992.

Patterns of Descent (poetry), Orchises Press (Alexandria, VA), 1993.

Trillium (poetry), BOA Editions (Rochester, NY), 1998.

Double Going (poetry), BOA Editions (Rochester, NY), 2002.

The Burning of Troy (poetry), BOA Editions (Rochester, NY), 2006.

Also author of poetry chapbooks "The Hours," Red Hydra Press (Tuscaloosa, AL), 1993; and "Transfigured Nights" also author of study guides for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1989, 1993. Work represented in anthologies.

Contributor to periodicals, including Nation, New Criterion, Southwest Review, Kenyon Review, TriQuarterly, and New England Review.


Richard Foerster once told CA: "When I discovered writing as a means of artistic expression, I knew it would remain my life's work. Though I tried prose, I nevertheless failed at sustaining plots and characters over many pages, so the option of becoming a short-story writer, novelist or playwright was soon denied me. But in the lyric—whether pure or mixed with narrative—I found the vehicle for developing and sustaining a voice with which I could engage the world."

While Foerster has contributed poetry to periodicals for several years, it wasn't until 1992 that he published his first full-length collection, Sudden Harbor. With this work, the author established himself as a strong new voice. In the view of Robert Phillips of Small Press, this collection "should make clear Foerster's claim not only as one of the best of the New Formalists, but as one of the best poets of his generation." Peter Josyph, writing in Library Journal, called Foerster's "persona … intensely vulnerable … never precious; his elegant language is never obscure."

Robert B. Shaw, writing about Sudden Harbor in Poetry, saw Foerster as "a kind of memoirist, but his manner is distinctively his own…. His treatments, one might say, are less historical than archetypal." In the author's recounting of his early years as the son of German parents who moved to America, Foerster avoids "the customary cliches about the immigrant experience. The images [his poems] offer instead are more potent and primal."

Foerster's work "confirm[s] poetry's artfulness, its antiquities and classicisms," according to critic Joel Lipman of Small Press. Reviewing Foerster's second collection, Patterns of Descent, Lipman found value in the author's themes of sexuality and death, which he called "rhapsodic," and "at times masked and allusive." In Patterns, Foerster makes full use of the rural Maine environment he calls home. The book "is filled with images of water and water birds, growing plants, and flowers," observed Booklist reviewer Whitney Scott. Scott wrote that "Covenant," a poem in memory of a friend's deceased son, describes "‘A hawk is soaring in tightening loops,’ then ‘stoops’ into a pattern of descent towards its prey. This ancient ritual is compared to the future of a parent ‘hurled/in grief's inhabitable hell.’" "Yet if Foerster's subjects are often bleakly existential, his tone is seldom gloomy," wrote Ben Howard in an issue of Poetry. "By turns reflective, wistful, and melancholy, his poems maintain an observant equanimity in the presence of transience."

In 1998 Foerster produced Trillium, a book that "should be in every poetry collection," Library Journal critic Tim Gavin suggested. Michael Scharf, while also citing Foerster's talent, gave more qualified praise for Trillium in his Poetry review: It "is the clear product of heightened senses and formal acumen, and often makes for gentle, enjoyable company. Though clearly enamored of the world, it never quite comes into its own, or compels us into its ken." However, John Hoppenthaler, writing for Arts and Letters commented, "Foerster is a nature poet of the first order," and P.H. Liotta of the Journal said, "The turn Foerster has taken in this book represents both a remarkable departure and an accommodating unity with his previous work."

A reviewer writing for Publishers Weekly said that Foerster's 2002 book Double Going "draws consoling connections between experience and the imagination, literature, myth." Ryan Stellabotte went into more depth on the Fordham University Web site: "the finely wrought poems in this powerful volume bear the weight of memories and losses, of childhood confusions and adult longings, and often bring an understanding that is neither facile nor sentimental."

Foerster recently told CA: "For me the writing of poetry is akin to playing a musical instrument or blowing glass. It is a transformative process, turning breath into patterns of sound that assume a shapeliness on the page. Recently I've been writing poems that probe the nature of deity in regard to the certainty of mortality."



American Book Review, March-April, 2003, Wayne Miller, review of Double Going.

Arts and Letters, spring, 1999, John Hoppenthaler, review of Trillium, p. 152.

Booklist, November 15, 1993, Whitney Scott, review of Patterns of Descent, p. 598.

Journal, autumn, 1998, P.H. Liotta, review of Trillium, p. 146.

Library Journal, May 1, 1992, Peter Josyph, review of Sudden Harbor, p. 85; June 15, 1998, Tim Gavin, review of Trillium, p. 82

Poetry, October, 1993, Robert B. Shaw, review of Sudden Harbor, p. 47; November, 1994, Ben Howard, review of Patterns of Descent, p. 109; February, 1999, Michael Scharf, review of Trillium, p. 322.

Publishers Weekly, November 19, 2001, review of Double Going.

Small Press, winter, 1993, Robert Phillips, review of Sudden Harbor, p. 55; spring, 1994, Joel Lipman, review of Patterns of Descent, p. 107.


Fordham University Web site, (May 15, 2007), Ryan Stellabotte, review of Double Going.