John Foy on His Book, ‘No One Leaves the World Unhurt’

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Paulina Prosnitz, Staff Writer

The Department of English hosted writer and poet John Foy for a virtual reading and discussion of his recently published book “No One Leaves the World Unhurt” on April 8. The collection, which was published on Feb. 10, 2021, is the third of Foy’s career. His first book, “Techne’s Clearinghouse,” was published in 2004, and his second, “Night Vision,” was published in 2016. The latter won the New Criterion Poetry Prize, a poetry contest run by the New York-based literary magazine “The New Criterion.” “No One Leaves the World Unhurt” was awarded the 2020 Donald Justice Poetry Prize, a prize given annually to an American poet for an unpublished book-length manuscript of formal poetry. 

In addition to being an accomplished poet, Foy works as a senior financial editor and writer in New York City. He holds an MFA from Columbia University and has taught writing at Harvard Business School, Columbia University and Barnard College. 

The poet was introduced to the event participants by Peter Balakian, Professor of English and Colgate’s Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of Humanities, as well as Foy’s former 10th grade English teacher. Balakian revealed that, several decades ago, Foy was a student in his class at the Dwight-Englewood School in New Jersey. Balakian shared an anecdote about Foy’s introduction to James Joyce’s short story “The Dead,” upon which Foy remarked that the literary perspective narrowed like a cone. From that moment on, Balakian and other faculty members would use the term “Foy’s Cone” to describe Joyce’s literary style. 

Following this introduction, Foy read several poems from his collection, including “Report Card,” “Cup,” “One Hundred Pounds of Myrr” and “Cross and Sphere.” The reading was followed by a Q&A session moderated by Balakian during which students, faculty and even the several members of Foy’s family in attendance had the opportunity to reflect on the work and ask the poet questions.

When asked a question about how he balances a more traditional corporate day job with his artistic pursuits, Foy explained the importance of having both elements in his life. 

“The more one works in the corporate world, the more one is driven towards some kind of interiority and desire to express yourself outside of a corporate structure. So I would say the corporation drives me towards poetry as a necessary means of survival psychically, spiritually, and poverty of the poet drives me towards the corporate world,” Foy said. “These two pursuits are interdependent.”

The poet, who currently lives in New York City, answered some questions regarding his several years spent living abroad in Paris and Brazil. 

“Just by being in each one of those places, outside of the United States, is a kind of gift in itself, because it removes you from familiar context and puts you in a different context of different people, different landscapes, different languages, and that in itself is very refreshing and stimulating,” Foy said.

Many of the student participants were members of Balakian’s Poetry Writing Workshop, such as Senior Lexi Clegg.

“[The lecture] offered me a glimpse into the diverse and captivating experiences of adolescence into adulthood and offered beneficial and motivating content to implement in the final weeks of writing and workshopping poetry,” she said.

While Foy may once have been a 10th grader learning for the first time about James Joyce, with this reading, he entered the ranks of the studied rather than the studier.