Linda Nemec Foster was born near Cleveland, Ohio in 1950 to John and Helen Nemec. All four of her grandparents were immigrants from southern Poland–a fact which has played an important role in a number of Foster’s poems, particularly those published in her book, Amber Necklace from Gdansk.
She graduated magna cum laude from Aquinas College (Grand Rapids, Michigan) in 1972 with a B.A. in social science. After receiving her undergraduate degree, Foster worked at the Center for Environmental Study in Grand Rapids as a social demographer.
She married Anthony Foster in 1974 and moved to Detroit; this change in her life began a significant process–she began writing poetry and gained critical support for her work from writer and poet Faye Kicknosway, who taught at Wayne State University in the early 1970’s. Kicknosway encouraged her to develop her craft at the graduate level and in 1977 Foster was accepted into the M.F.A. program at Goddard College in Vermont (the program has subsequently moved to Warren Wilson College in North Carolina). There, Foster studied under such noted poets and writers as Lisel Mueller, Stephen Dobyns, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Heather McHugh, Donald Hall, Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff, John Irving, Louise Gluck, and Robert Hass. She graduated in 1979 with the Board of Directors’ highest commendation and received her MFA in creative writing.
From 1980-2002, she taught poetry workshops throughout the state of Michigan for the Creative-Writers-in-Schools Program which was coordinated by the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs. She has also taught poetry and writing classes on the college level at Ferris State University and Aquinas College. In addition, Foster has given readings and been a guest lecturer in poetry at numerous colleges and universities such as the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Hope College, Calvin College, Loyola University (Chicago), Lake County Community College (Illinois), University of Missouri–Kansas City (where she was interviewed on the NPR program New Letters on the Air), and Grand Rapids Community College.
Foster is the author of ten collections of poetry: A History of the Body (Coffee House Press, 1987); A Modern Fairy Tale: The Baba Yaga Poems (Ridgeway Press, 1992); Trying to Balance the Heart (Sun Dog Press, 1993); Living in the Fire Nest (Ridgeway Press, 1996) which was a finalist for the Poet’s Prize; Contemplating the Heavens (Ridgeway Press, 2001); Amber Necklace from Gdansk (Louisiana State University Press, 2001) which was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Award in Poetry; Listen to the Landscape (Eerdmans Publishing, 2006) which was short-listed for the Michigan Notable Book Award; Ten Songs from Bulgaria (Cervena Barva Press, 2008); Talking Diamonds (New Issues Press, 2009) which was a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s 2010 Book of the Year in Poetry; and The Lake Michigan Mermaid (Wayne State University Press, 2018).
Over 350 of her poems have appeared in various magazines and journals such as The Georgia Review, Nimrod, North American Review, New American Writing, Quarterly West, Indiana Review, DoubleTake, Mid-American Review, Connecticut Review, America, Passages North, Paterson Literary Review, South Florida Poetry Journal, I-70 Review, and The MacGuffin. Her work has also been published in major anthologies in the U.S. and Great Britain, been exhibited in museums and galleries, translated in Europe, and produced for the stage. Her chapbook, Contemplating the Heavens, was the inspiration for jazz musician Steve Talaga’s original composition and CD that was nominated for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music. In 2013 her collaboration with Hungarian musician Laszlo Slomovits was released on a CD, “Cry of Freedom”. The project was inspired by Foster’s poems from the chapbook, Ten Songs from Bulgaria, which Slomovits rendered into original music compositions and songs. From 2003-2005 she served as the first poet laureate of Grand Rapids.
Foster has won numerous honors for her poetry including the International Creative Arts Award from the Polish American Historical Association, finalist for the Michigan Governor’s Artist Award, two grants from the Michigan Council for the Arts, fellowships from the Arts Foundation of Michigan and ArtServe Michigan, a teaching fellowship from the National Writers’ Voice Project, a book award nomination from the Academy of American Poets, and numerous nominations for the Pushcart Prize from poets, writers, and editors.
In 1997 she founded (along with her husband, Tony) the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College. One of the most successful reading series in the country, the CWS has featured such acclaimed poets and writers as Seamus Heaney, Michael Ondaatje, Pete Carey, Maxine Kumin, Lisel Mueller, Joy Harjo, Li-Young Lee, Linda Pastan, Clarence Major, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Thomas Lynch, Linda Hogan, Scott Turow, Luis Rodriguez, Robin Hemley, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Jaimy Gordon, Sarah Kay, Luis Alberto Urrea, Steve Almond, Karen Russell, Elena Passarello, Thomas Lux, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Maria Mazziotti Gillan.