Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sun City Center man discovers love for poetry

SUN CITY CENTER

It took John F. Foster 75 years to find his passion. He located it somewhere between meter and rhyme.

Foster is a poet. For the 78-year-old former French teacher, the poetry bug came on fast and furiously. Since 2008, he has published three collections of poetry, entered poetry contests and begun teaching classes to would-be poets.

"The challenge of working words to fit a prescribed pattern, whether rhyming, syllabic or metric fascinated me," said Foster, who moved to Sun City Center from Troy, N.Y., in 1990.

He finds inspiration everywhere. A photo of a century-old plant in bloom. Three live chicks found under their dead mother's wing. A newspaper account of a world-famous violinist playing in a D.C. subway station with a hat for donations.

Foster traces his love for poetry to his father.

"He had a great love of words, enjoyed doing the Times crossword in pen, and he took pleasure in writing humorous poetic tributes for friends and family," Foster said.

Like his father, who worked as a businessman, Foster spent his career on the outskirts of poetry. Occasionally, he wrote humorous limericks. He penned light verse for colleagues and friends. He read classical and modern poetry, and eventually began to try to understand the craft itself.

Despite spending his working years as a French teacher, he would ultimately chase the dream his father had let slip away.

The turning point for Foster occurred through sheer serendipity. He submitted a 24-line humorous poem, Automania to a poetry contest sponsored by the Hillsborough County library system in 2008.

It became the vehicle for Foster's discovery of his own talent for the craft. He didn't win, but the contest inspired him. At 75, he published his first book, Discovery! A Wordcrafter's Journey. Two more books soon followed.

Foster's daughter, Elizabeth, a photographer, took the photos of his first and last book covers. The photo of Foster's inaugural book is of a tree trunk rising out of the aqua blue water of Trunk Bay in St. John, The Virgin Islands.

"I am truly in awe of him," said Elizabeth, 49, who lives in Clearwater. "In his retirement, he has discovered a new passion in his life and is actively pursuing it."

Aside from writing, Foster has taught poetry classes at the senior graduate school at Freedom Plaza, a retirement community in Sun City Center.

Administrators there say he was well received by all of his students. Frank Daniels took the same class from Foster twice, once in 2009 and again the next year. He credits Foster with introducing him to the world of Haiku and Senru, two forms of ancient poetry.

"I never wrote a line of poetry in my life until I took John's class," said Daniels, 84.

Although writing can sometimes be a solitary endeavor, Foster said it gives him a sense of community. He posts his work on websites and receives feedback from poets as far away as Australia.

"I might enter a poem online one day, and within 24 hours receive critiques and responses from half a dozen poets around the globe," he said.

Foster challenges himself to write in new poetry forms.

So far, he's tried writing in about 20 different poetry forms. They bear exotic sounding names like Ya Du and Than Bauk, two poetry forms from Burma.

Foster's preference though, is still rhyme and meter. His favorite poet is Robert Frost.

"For me to have done this at 78, this might inspire others," he said. "It is never too late to realize and develop your talents."

Reach Shawnequa Shand at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

A Ya Du poem

With Field Day, a Ya Du written by Foster in the poetic style of Burma, Foster found that usually the Ya Du has a seasonal reference like Haiku. In the poem below, he writes about a field of locusts.

Field Day

Locusts in swarm

Forming storm cloud

On warm, clear day

Swirling grey mass

At Play? Farmers Pray.

Sun City Center man discovers love for poetry 12/29/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 29, 2011 4:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas sheriff's corporal had racist, sexist, pornographic content on his cell phone

    Public Safety

    LARGO — A Pinellas County sheriff's corporal resigned recently after an investigation into an alleged extramarital affair revealed a trove of racist, sexist and pornographic images on his personal cell phone.

    Shawn Pappas, 46, resigned as a training division corporal from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office after an investigation revealed a trove of offensive images and videos on his phone. This photo was taken as a screenshot from one of the videos released by the Sheriff's Office that Pappas filmed while on duty. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  2. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine reflects on the news from the Congressional Budget Office analysis that could imperil GOP leaders' hopes of pushing their health care the plan through the chamber this week, Tuesday, on Capitol Hill in Washington. [AP photo]
  3. Review: Dan Auerbach, Benjamin Booker plumb the past for inspiration on new albums

    Music & Concerts

    It didn't take Benjamin Booker long to get lumped in with the greats. The Tampa-raised singer-songwriter's 2014 self-titled blues-punk debut brought widespread acclaim, not to mention an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, a tour with Jack White and sessions with Mavis Staples.

    The cover of Benjamin Booker's new album "Witness." Credit: ATO Records
  4. Fourth of July in Tampa Bay: parades, hot dog parties, concerts and more things to do

    Events

    Looking for things to do on the Fourth of July in Tampa Bay? There is no shortage of patriotic events, from the Hot Dog Party concerts and eating contest in Tampa, to the parades in Land O' Lakes and Safety Harbor, to the swinging dance party at St. Petersburg's Museum of Fine arts, there's an abundance of things to do …

    The annual Independence Day parade in Brandon kicks off at 10 a.m. on July 4 at 101 E Lumsden Road. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times (2015)]
  5. Pasco deputies investigate vandalism at Crystal Springs Cemetery (w/video)

    Crime

    CRYSTAL SPRINGS — Pasco County deputies are looking for one or more suspects linked to vandalism of two grave sites in this community's small cemetery.

    An above-ground tomb disturbed by one or more suspects, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.