Gilbert Foster (1920-2000): Selected Poems

Galway, Ireland 1956.

this is a season for dying:
now your one-eyed house regards no more children
Valletort's motte, just, and the shabby Green
no point in waiting here for summer's Court
silence: the bell-pull and the giggling bell

For Sylvia Plath, 1963
Written at Court Green, North Tawton soon after Sylvia's suicide in "Yeats' place".
Sylvia planned to return to Court Green in the summer, and Gilbert went over there every day to feed her two kittens, Skunky-Bunks and Tiger-Pieker.

north west passage

stained rains in winter carry the bleak season
into a new north and by the long west passage
sound round in ultimate ice-wise to the skies' ocean
there on some fine pine strand and heart's belonging
in sun to be done at the last with contrast
and a dismembering past

to Aidan Foster, UBC Vancouver; Hilary Term, 1983.
Aidan was his son. He was working at the University of British Columbia in 1983, when the poem was written.

Comes foggy light to the flat country
And close, horse voices of water
sit here and wait something happening soon
Do nothing, want nothing, hope nothing, only
The river walks timidly forward
Pacing its hesitations to a dimness of sounds
Play in pale light, people, and
Do not know what day is after tomorrow
Someone will come sure and say it
First, and the fist and the flare
Front of events and the eating up risk and rejoiner
Love in dense light and look out and aloud over trees
Stripping their gloves off and skeleton fingers
Beckon the sky

Silver Street Bridge, Tuesday, 11 November 1975.
Gilbert was in Cambridge, for a year, from September 1975. He was doing research at Emmanuel College.
Published in the Poetry Section of the Newfoundland Quarterly in 1987.

Nativity: for Anne Hart

take heart anne
the god is born a man
(no footprints in the snow though)
the woman likely more so
that way all things began
didn't you know?

Anne Hart was a librarian at Memorial University of Newfoundland (now retired).
She is also an author, best known for "The Life and Times of Miss Jane Marple".
Anne champions the rights of women.


man is NOT my favourite animal
like Hannibal I prefer the elephant
where extant, or the aunt-eater
whose temperament is sweeter
or the pibald pantaloon
as found upon the far-face of the moon
or else the banded booman or brummagem boor
found only on a moor
else the sapient two-legged woman
(these are statistically fewer)

Gilbert was a great admirer of Edward Lear.

Frederick Gilbert Foster was born on 10 December 1920 in Dublin, Ireland. He went by his middle name Gilbert (or Gil). His parents called him Noel.

Gilbert studied, as a mature student, at Trinity College, Dublin and emerged with a BA First Class in History & Political Science.

He married Marian Robley at St. John the Evangelist Church, Plumpton, Cumberland on 20 August 1956. In the next 6 years they had 4 children: Aidan (1957), Gerald (1958), Bride (1961) and Rona (1963).

Although he was an academic, he was also interested in writing poetry. Over the years he wrote many poems (hundreds) and he displayed them on the door of his office at work. He started writing suddenly, during our time in North Tawton and he may have been influenced by his friend, Arthur Adamson of Winnipeg, Canada who was also an academic/poet.

Gilbert was extremely eccentric and had many "enemies", but a few life-long friends. Arthur Adamson was one of these friends.

He wrote to Aidan on his father's death, "I met your father in Pau, in the south of France in about 1950 at a summer course given by the Lycee of Bordeau. We went into the mountains together with an Englishman - who was an Alpiniste - & an American. It was a wonderful six weeks. Then your father and I hitch-hiked our way to Cannes - - -. Your father was a great source of information regarding the history of the places we went through - mostly pertaining to the crusades. I still get the feeling of those old little towns & the marvellous Mediterranean countryside - the hot sun and the blue sky."

Gilbert died in Toronto on 31 December 2000. His ashes were brought back to Ireland & interred at the foot of the grave of his parents, Emily Kate Foster & Frederick Foster, & his brother Eric Alfred Foster.

St. Patrick's Church, Eniskerry, Ireland.

Marian Foster. 30 August 2014.