The Garbage Eater

Trade Paper – $16.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-2745-6
Publication Date
April 2011
Page Count
80 pages
Trim Size
6.125 x 8.5

The Garbage Eater

Brett Foster

The “Garbage Eater” of the title poem in Brett Foster’s provocative collection is a member of a religious sect (some would say cult) in the Bay Area who lives an ascetic life eating scraps from dumpsters. Just as this simple way of life exists within the most technologically advanced region in the world, Foster’s poems are likewise animated by the constant tension between material reality and an unabashed yearning for transcendence. The titles of Foster’s poems—“Like as a ship, that through the Ocean wyde,” “Meditation in an Olive Garden,” “Little Flowers of Dan Quisenberry” —nod to the poems of the classical, medieval, and Renaissance masters he studies as a scholar. 

In Foster’s vivid imagination, however, they point to the surprises hidden in the quotidian: a trip to the DMV, a visit to a chain restaurant, and the saintly reflections of the Kansas City Royals’ best closer. A lesser, more faddish writer would then tend toward ironic distance, but Foster fearlessly raises such unfashionable subjects as joy, doubt, gratitude, and grief without losing a sly sense of humor, even (as the sample poem shows) about poetry itself. Given its ambition, The Garbage Eater hardly seems a debut work. Foster’s universal subject matter and approachable style will win fans among both the most experienced poetry readers and those easily intimidated by contemporary verse.
About the Author

Brett Foster is Associate Professor of English at Wheaton College. He is currently completing Elemental Rebel: The Rime of Cecco Angiolieri. A past Wallace Stegner and Elizabethan Club fellow, his poetry and criticism has appeared in Raritan, The Kenyon Review, Best New Poets 2007, and Books & Culture, among other publications.

From the 'garbage eaters' of Berkeley to old Lazarus at Bethany, from the uniquely beautiful bridal caves of Missouri's Ozarks to those ubiquitous Olive Gardens, where 'a million people eat every day,' Brett Foster finds poetry in kitsch and cathedrals alike. His attention is omnivorous but his touch, his poetic talent, is refined, particular, and piercing. In this wise and accomplished first book, The Garbage Eater, Foster shows us  what we too often forget, that the great gift of learning is clarity, and the truest measure of the soul is compassion. Just so, in its deepest moments Brett Foster's poetry is, like faith, a means of transport that movse us from profane experience to stillness and awe."

—David Baker, author of Never-Ending Birds and Changeable Thunder

"Brett Foster's intense, original poems join the physical spirit and intellect in lines whose current runs as much from contemporary American English as from the Bible, Shakespeare, and Milton. Rodin's Thinker, the perfect emblem for this book, hunched 'with his wide, inhuman knuckles / lodged on his mouth, bows to the physical.' From meditations on Dumpster diving, shock rock, and the DMV to daily life gleaned from ancient Egyptian papyri, Foster draws a sacramental vision of our damaged humanness, 'the clear face of dust.'"

—Rosanna Warren, author of Departure and Stained Glass

"Brett Foster's The Garbage Eater is a trenchant, lyrical performance that flouts any conventional expectations. His work is shot through with an aching awareness of transcendence or the lack of it. 'From the Tarmac,' 'Contrition,' and 'The Foreman at Rest' are only a few of the poems that have stayed with me, in their tenderness, sadness, precision, and miraculous lack of sentimentality. An exceptional collection."

—Rachel Hadas, author of The Ache of Appetite and Laws