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Tonya Foster Conversation

Poet Tonya Foster in conversation with Charles Bernstein. Foster speaks of poetry as a "performance of freedom" and discusses her odyssey from church choir in New Orleans to New York's innovative poetry communities. Along the way, Foster addresses the central role of sound and performance in her work, her multiple sense of identity, conflicting strains of work in current African-American poetry, the tensions between the articulation of lyric individuality and collective engagements, and the role of place in transnational or non-national blackness.

Her book A Swarm of Bees in High Court is published by Belladonna (Fall 2013). Foster lives in New York, where she is a doctoral student in English at the CUNY Graduate Center.


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Conversations and readings with poets and artists, produced in cooperation with PennSound and hosted by Charles Bernstein, the American poet, theorist, editor, and literary scholar. Bernstein was born in New York City in 1950. He is a foundational member and leading practitioner of Language poetry. Bernstein was educated at the Bronx High School of Science and at Harvard University, where he studied philosophy with Stanley Cavell and wrote his final thesis on Gertrude Stein and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

In the mid-1970s Bernstein became active in the experimental poetry scenes in New York and San Francisco, not only as a poet, but also as an editor, publisher, and theorist. With visual artist and wife Susan Bee, Bernstein published several now well-known poets whose work is associated with Language writing.