A collection of poetry focuses on freedom.
Foster (The Mind, 2017) announces her theme in the title of her new volume of poetry. Each piece, she writes, “actually relates to the overall aspect of freedom.” Sometimes, that relationship is crystal clear, as in the collection’s opening poem, “Ode to Freedom,” which begins “Captured from Africa and enslaved here to / the end. Oh, but now, my ancestry has been / mend. / In longing to break the bondage, runaway / slaves became free. The contentment and / delight of freedom are so exhilarating to me.” Here and elsewhere, the poet’s language is nonstandard, but there’s no denying the energy behind her words, and at its best, her verse is bracing. But at other times, her works’ relevance to her central concern is less obvious. For example, the brief piece “Know” is quoted here in its entirety: “Steal away to / Inhibitory acts. / Steadfast to / Current status. / Eliteness. / Power.” It’s not entirely clear what “inhibitory acts” have to do with freedom—or what they are, for that matter—but more importantly, “Know” is so gnomic as to be almost nonsensical. While brevity is the soul of wit, many of Foster’s poems would be stronger if they were just a little bit longer. The same thing might be said of the book itself. Mill’s On Liberty runs past 47,000 words. Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom checks in at over 550 pages. Foster’s thin volume of the same name is just over a dozen pages. Combine this with the fact that more than a handful of her poems barely stretch past a dozen words, and readers will likely be left with the feeling that the author should have written a few more pieces—and perhaps some lengthier ones. Foster clearly has something important to say; she should feel free to write more in the future.
A spirited and promising volume of poetry.