Jack Foley (poet)

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Jack Foley is an American poet living in Oakland, California.


John Wayne Harold Foley was born August 9, 1940 in Neptune, New Jersey, raised in Port Chester, New York, and educated at Cornell University and the University of California at Berkeley. Foley’s career as a poet is unique because it has always involved performance, specifically the presentation of “multivoiced” pieces written by Foley but performed by both Foley and his late wife Adelle Foley (1940-2016). These pieces often feature conflicting, simultaneous voices whose interrelationships reflect Foley’s often-stated belief that “some parts of the mind don’t know what other parts are doing.”

Foley met Adelle in November, 1960, while he was attending Cornell and she was attending Goucher College in Maryland. They married in December, 1961; the couple had one child, Sean, born in 1974. The Foleys moved to California in 1963 so that he could attend UC Berkeley and she could work at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Foley received an MA in English Literature at UC Berkeley and published several poems and articles, but by 1974, influenced by Charles Olson's Maximus Poems, he had dropped out of graduate school to pursue a career as a poet and writer. His first poetry reading, in which he read jointly with Adelle, was in June, 1985. Since 1987, Foley has published 15 books of poetry, 5 books of criticism, a book of stories, and a two-volume “chronoencyclopedia,” Visions & Affiliations: California Poetry 1940-2005. In 2010 he was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Berkeley Poetry Festival and June 5, 2010 was declared Jack Foley Day in Berkeley. He is also the recipient of the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. His poetry books often feature accompanying CDs or cassette tapes on which Foley and Adelle perform his work. Since 1988, Foley has also hosted a show of interviews and poetry presentations on Berkeley radio station KPFA. Since his wife's death, Foley has found new love and a second performance partner in Sangye Land, daughter of poet Julie Rogers and stepdaughter of poet David Meltzer.


  • Letters/Lights – Words for Adelle (Mother's Hen, 1987,ISBN 0-914370-55-3)
  • Gershwin - Poems (Norton Coker Press, 1991, ISBN 1-879457-10-5)
  • Adrift (Pantograph Press,1993,ISBN 1-880766-05-1)
  • Exiles (Pantograph Press, 1996, ISBN 1-880766-12-4)
  • Dead/Requiem,with Ivan Arguelles (Pantograph Press,1998,ISBN 1-880766-16-7)
  • Saint James: An Homage to James Joyce, with Ivan Arguelles (Pantograph Press,1998, ISBN 1-880766-17-5)
  • Foley's Books -- California Rebels, Beats & Radicals (Pantograph Press,2000, ISBN 1-880766-26-4)
  • O Powerful Western Star -- Poetry & Art in California (Pantograph Press, 2000,ISBN 1-880766-25-6)
  • Some Songs by Georges Brassens (Goldfish Press, 2001, ISBN 0-9711601-0-4)
  • Greatest Hits 1974-2003 (Pudding House Press, 2004,ISBN 1-58998-274-6)
  • Fennel in the Rain, with Adelle Foley (Small Change Series, WordTemple Press, 2007)
  • The Dancer & the Dance: A Book of Distinctions, foreword by Al Young(Red Hen Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1-59709-094-0)
  • Visions & Affiliations: A California Literary Time Line, Poets & Poetry,2 volumes (Pantograph Press, 2011, Part I ISBN 978-1-61364-067-8, Part II ISBN 978-1-61364-068-5)
  • Sketches Poetical (2012, artist’s book with CD, a collaboration with Helen Breger; art by Breger, poetry by Foley). Designed by Paul Veres. No ISBN number.
  • Eyes: Selected Poems (Poetry Hotel Press, 2013), introduction by Ivan Argüelles, ISBN 978-0-9891578-0-3
  • Life: Poems by Jack Foley (Word Palace Press, 2014), chapbook, ISBN 0988804549, ISBN 978-0-9888045-4-8
  • A California Beat Literary Timeline—The 1950s (The Beat Scene Press, England, 2014), a reprint of the 1950s section from Visions & Affiliations
  • RIVERRUN: (Poetry Hotel Press, 2016), poetry, ISBN 978-0-9891578-4-1
  • The Tiger & Other Tales (Sagging Meniscus Press, 2016), stories, prose sketches, plays, ISBN 978-1-944697-13-6 (paperback), ISBN 978-1-944697-14-3 (ebook)
  • Grief Songs (Sagging Meniscus Press, 2017), poetry dealing with the aftermath of the death in 2016 of Jack's wife Adelle (paperback), ISBN 9781944697488


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