The Maybe Bird
The Maybe-Bird marks Jennifer Elise Foerster as a visionary voice in contemporary poetry. Through a spiraling sequence of lyric poems, a cast of voices—oracles, ghosts, water—speaks to a long history of genocide, displacement, and ecological devastation. Foerster uses new poetic forms and a highly conceptual framework to build these poems from myth, memory, and historical document, resurfacing Mvskoke language and story on the palimpsest of Southeastern U.S. history. Foerster leads us on a journey through the visible and invisible landscapes of our human story, through what feels like multiple lifetimes, where we hear the language of the shifting weather, and stand on the haunted edge of the world.
"Sometimes instructions return like these
sea turtles rising from extinction,
dragging their gravid shells under moonlight
as if there were still children in the stars
who were willing to return to us."
"In The Maybe-Bird, Jennifer Elise Foerster knits language to create new and haunting ways of seeing and being in the world. These compelling and unsettling poems weave the past with our uncertain future. At turns the speaker loses faith in poems and narratives, but I trust the urgency in that doubt and that pulled me through this wonder-filled book.
I’m grateful for the gift of The Maybe-Bird."
"Foerster is a master of subtlety...
The sequences spill over centuries before abruptly turning back on themselves with the order to ‘prepare for change’..."
Praise & Reviews
"To help us know ourselves again, Jennifer Foerster has made a poem that is also a story, drawn from the Myskoke language into an intricate, but unfailingly buoyant, poetic net. Repeating lines in The Maybe-Bird act as sonic re-beginnings. They launch attempts to know a world in which we are excrutiatingly unmoored creatures. Their recurring music helps us bear the book’s hard truths for and with each other: “The passage into the interior / is riddled with masks, skins shed, hung for trade.” How is the depth held by Foerster with such ease, reminding us what language can hold, even without explaining, or giving reasons why? I am astonished: I can say “we” again with new confidence because of the undergoing this book asks us to do together, a journey made possible by the indigenous people of all of the Americas, and now made traceable by all readers willing to lend a breath. If our future as a human race can exist, I believe we can find out how to know it here."
"Foerster’s gifts are on display in this conceptually ambitious book."
Publisher's Weekly, June 2022
"This book is part archive part hieroglyph part oracular crow. It is at least two things and perhaps two thousand. So much here is present and so much is absence manifest that I hate to pick one, but like the speaker in the book you should “carry a book/to the clearing at the stream’s bend.//The wind/spring friend/picks its dark pages.”
on Bright Raft in the Afterweather
News & Upcoming Appearances
Artists Respond to Near East to Far West - April 25, 2023
Join us for a panel discussion featuring artists Jennifer Elise Foerster, Steven Yazzie, and Dana El Masri as they respond to the exhibition Near East to Far West: Fictions of French and American Colonialism. Moderated by exhibition curator JR (Jennifer R.) Henneman.
About Jennifer Foerster
Jennifer Elise Foerster is the author of three books of poetry, The Maybe Bird (The Song Cave, 2022), Bright Raft in the Afterweather (University of Arizona Press, 2018), and Leaving Tulsa (University of Arizona Press, 2013), and served as the Associate Editor of When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry (Norton, 2020).