Foster Jeanne Robert 18791971

Jeanne Robert Fosters poetry contrasts the importance of the individual and the natural world against the devaluation of human life and the exploitation of nature inherent in what the 20th century came to define as progress. Her dramatic narratives and monologues recreate the hardships and joys of a people whose birthright was "a low-roofed farmhouse or a log shanty" (n.p.). Seemingly a regionalist poet of the Adirondack area, Foster embodies a modernist trend toward understatement, powerful use of images, and introspection apparent in the work of Ezra pound, her mentor. Although Fosters publicized connection to the modernist movement has been limited to third-party references in studies of such literati as the William Butler Yeats, Ford Madox Ford, Pound, patron of the arts John Quinn, and painters Gwen and Augustus John (see modernism), Foster was at the movement's center, having worked as an editor for the Review of Reviews (1910-33), transatlantic review (1923-24), and This Quarter (1925). Fosters first publication was a collection of poetry, Wild Apples in 1916, followed by four more publications in her lifetime and one posthumous volume, Adirondack Portraits (1986).

Foster was born Julia Elizabeth oliver in Johnsburg, New York, and she learned early to survive in the beautiful, punishing wilderness of the Adiron-dacks. By 1910 she was working as a model for illustrators Harrison Fisher and Charles Dana Gibson as well as the painter André Derain and developing as a journalist under Review of Reviews publisher Albert Shaw. Her encounters with modernity sent her back imaginatively to her mountain heritage for ways to cope with the demands of a new world: "Dig deep, you new men and you new women, / Into the past / . . . find the American that was, / Or lose in the World-Game" (Neighbors of Yesterday, Epigraph, 1916). Struggling to affirm the value of human life,

Foster locates modern tragedy in a disregard for the individual and destruction of the natural resources that nourish us: "But lovely things vanish; / They are going as the feet of destruction / And progress climb the high peaks." ("Neighbors").

While her early poetry depended on end-rhyme and iambic pentameter, Foster settled into the natural cadences of Adirondack speech—laconic, simple in form, broad in its tones, evoking the rhythms of the Psalms—to interpret a modern world in free verse (see prosody and free verse). Alfred Kazin cited her "matter-of-fact plainness" as reminiscent of Robert frosts in creating "artfully conversational pastorals" (n.p.). Like Frost, Foster rejects nostalgic escape, employing a subtly critical, ironic stance to comment on the purpose of life through its vicissitudes: "The hopelessness is in the tragedy / Of those / Who cannot feel repentance or regret" ("Country Tragedy" [1916]).

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