Urgent from the outset, Rebecca Foust's Only insists that the only thing worth writing about is everything. Prompted to confront what she does not know, the speaker lists, "Null. All. What's after death or before." This book scales the cliff-face of adulthood, that paradoxical ascent in which the longer we live the less we know of life, in which we find that each of us is only ourselves and yet delicately interconnected with everyone, everything, else. These candid lyrics ponder our broken political systems, family (dys)function and parenting challenges, divergent and intersecting identities, the complexities of sexuality, natural refuge and climate catastrophe, and in general what it means to be human in a world that sometimes feels as if it is approaching apocalypse. At the ledge of this abyss, however, Foust reminds us of the staggering beauty of life, the legacies of survival in the echoes of care that outlast us: "I came / to the canyon rim and saw // how best to carry you: I let the stone go."
Rebecca Foust is the author of Paradise Drive (Press 53, 2015), winner of the Press 53 Award for Poetry and the Poetry Society of Virginia Book Award; All That Gorgeous Pitiless Song (Many Mountains Moving, 2010), winner of the Many Mountains Moving Book Prize; and God, Seed: Poetry & Art about the Natural World (Tebot Bach, 2010), a collaboration with artist Lorna Stevens that won the Foreword Book of the Year Award for Poetry. Her chapbooks are The Unexploded Ordnance Bin (Swan Scythe Press, 2020) winner of the Swan Scythe Chapbook Award, and Mom's Canoe (Texas Review Press 2009) and Dark Card (Texas Review Press 2008), winners of the Robert Phillips Poetry Prize in consecutive years. Foust's poems appear widely, in The Hudson Review, Narrative, Ploughshares, POETRY, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. Recognitions include the 2020 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry judged by Kaveh Akbar, the C.P. Cavafy and James Hearst Poetry Prizes, a 2017-19 Marin County Poet Laureateship, and fellowships from The Frost Place, Hedgebrook, MacDowell, and Sewanee Writers' Conference.
"In Only, her luminous new collection of poems, Rebecca Foust's gifts are in full flower. Richly imagistic and achingly lyrical, these poems wrestle with the big questions-religion, immigration, climate change, politics, parenting, autism, and death-all on a deeply intimate level. Like an impressionist painter, she uses light to capture the immediacy of the present, the passage of time. Foust's most remarkable gift is showing us '… the world as it is: gorgeous in its mortal wound.'"
"Rebecca Foust's new book, Only, is her most masterful work to date. Here are forty-two poems full of music, precision, and what range-from the haunted thrill 'through moonlight and smoke' of skating on a lake at night, to field-stripping an M-16, to sitting with loved ones through births and final illnesses alike. In Foust's hands the hard work of memory-each fossil, each word and gesture-is sometimes balanced and sometimes in tension with the echoes of what we must lose. 'I remember all the words,' she writes in one poem; and in the next, 'I let the stone go.' Insoluble, this give and take, and yet the music made from the gifts and griefs of a life is Rebecca Foust's deepest source both of clarity and of nuance, 'the language of living, and its aftermath.'"
"The poems in Rebecca Foust’s tremendous new collection, Only, attend to the fundamental act of giving shape to a life, while accounting for joy, grief, love and family. With narrative skill and lyric intensity, political alertness and imaginative flair, Foust is writing some of the most important poems of our day. Every poem in this book offers what Foust describes as moments of “seeing something new, and listening, really listening.” I’m convinced that we’ll be listening to these poems for a long time to come."