Cover to Cover with Jack Foley is a celebration of poetry as it was, as it is, and as it shall be. Poet/critic Dana Gioia writes that Foley’s show “may be the best thing of its kind in the country” (turnrow, 2004). Since 1988 Foley has presented current poets of all schools in interviews that seek for depth rather than fashion. One poet remarked to Foley, “You’ve made me see my work in a new way.” His classic “Poetpourri” shows—a wide-ranging exploration of American and English poetry in the 20th century—are a testimony to the sheer diversity of American and English poetic expression in the 20th century. “Though various themes emerge,” writes Foley, “there is no one theme—or even two or three—to make it all ‘cohere.’ (These people cannot even agree on how a poem should be recited.) It’s a potpourri, a poetpourri.”

Jack Foley has interviewed extremely well-known poets such as Allen Ginsberg, Al Young, Dana Gioia, Michael McClure, Jerome Rothenberg, Diane di Prima, Kathleen Fraser, Ishmael Reed, Francisco X. Alarcon, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti as well as local lights such as Mary Rudge, Nina Serrano, and Ivan Argüelles. He has presented programs on Beowulf, on Romantic poetry, on “ethnic” poetry and has gone out of his way to find work that has been neglected: his shows on Clark Ashton Smith and Donald Sidney-Fryer have attracted national attention. Foley’s ability as a critic, his considerable historical knowledge, and his awareness of the current “scene”—including “spoken word” poetry—have all been poured into his radio shows and have made them a kaleidoscopic, always stimulating attraction for anyone interested in poetry—and even for people who are not. “Jack Foley,” remarked poet Kathleen Fraser, “is a fine poet, a man in love with his life, a contributor to the good.”

Jack Foley

Photo by Wen Hsu
Photo by Wen Hsu

Jack Foley is a well-known, widely-published California poet. He has published 13 books of poetry, 5 books of criticism, and Visions and Affiliations, a 1300-page “chronoencyclopedia” of California poetry from 1940 to 2005. Visions and Affiliations was awarded the Artists Embassy International Golden Seal Book Award for “outstanding achievement in promoting intercultural understanding.” Foley has presented poetry programming on KPFA since 1988, and his column, “Foley’s Books,” appears in the online magazine, The Alsop Review. In 2010 Foley was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Berkeley Poetry Festival, and June 5, 2010 was proclaimed “Jack Foley Day” in Berkeley. The Fall 2012, vol. 5, no. 1 issue of the online Tower Journal is a Festschrift for Foley. EYES, Foley’s Selected Poems, has appeared from Poetry Hotel Press, and a chapbook, LIFE, has appeared from Word Palace Press. Janine Canan, editor of the anthology, She Rises Like The Sun: Invocations Of The Goddess By Contemporary Women Poets, calls Foley “a brilliant critic and a unique poet whose work energetically records the disintegration of the patriarchy.” Christopher Bernard has called him “a many-tongued master…one of American poetry’s essential thinkers and practitioners,” and Beat poet Michael McClure has called him “our firebrand experimentalist”: “he holds his torch high so the reader can have more light.” With his wife Adelle, Foley performs his work (often multivoiced pieces) frequently in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their performances can be found on YouTube. With poet Clara Hsu, Foley is co-publisher of Poetry Hotel Press.