From Nim Chimpsky to George Clooney: Extravagant Rescues: Poems by Brett Foster

Valerie Duff-Strautmann
| Reviews

There are literal reckonings Brett takes up, though, afterlife or no. He writes of the end of the world, whatever that may be, in poems like “On the Numbness That Will Be Our Future” which speaks to what happens when we tip the scales on global warming. While his work draws from Christian language and ideas at times, he isn’t dogmatic in his poetry. But he does approach it, alluding to the transformations of the Christian apocalypse in “Passing Thought on Apocalypse,” in which all is transformed (you can hear it in the word itself, Brett says):


You may be in robe and curlers when it comes,
its big-time sparklers rousing us toward bomb shelters.

Those may be manifest signs of a kingdom
newly at hand, and not the helter-skelter

robbing of the present, benighted, made numb
by all you thought you knew, an infested belt.

The word suggests a curtain ripped behind the tombs,
emergent steps of something mighty. The rest, melting.


The introduction to Extravagant Rescues, written by Jeffrey Galbraith, notes a staged production of Brett’s work at Wheaton that he didn’t live to see—he died right before the show was performed. Galbraith writes, “What was designed as a gift to the poet was suddenly transformed into a gift to all those who loved him, giving communal space to our grief. That night Brett was not there, yet he was. Perhaps that is the most accurate description of his poems.” In reading Extravagant Rescues, he’s not there, yet he is. It’s true. I return to those pale, glowing chairs by the woodshed “at the height of their afterlives” and think of the accomplishment of this fine poet at such an early age. These poems of Brett’s straddle worlds he bridged, from the ancient to the modern, from centurions to software designers, from the history of our time to the hereafter; they are part of an extravagant rescue, no matter what else you believe.

Valerie Duff-Strautmann‘s second book of poems will be published by Salmon Poetry in 2021. Poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in POETRY, The Common, and Mom Egg Review; book reviews have appeared in The Boston Globe, PN ReviewHarvard Review, and elsewhere. She is a contributing editor to The Critical Flame.

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