Visiting poet discusses prose
It was standing room only in Georgia College’s Library Museum Education Room last Thursday. Students, most studying English or creative writing, filled up the small room until they spilled out into the aisles and sat against the walls. Students, faculty and locals were there to listen to poet Alice Friman read from her new book of poetry, “Vinculum.”
Martin Lammon, MFA program coordinator and Fuller E. Callaway/Flannery O’Connor chair in creative writing, led the introduction of the poetry reading.
“Alice Friman is a treasure, among the best contemporary poets in America, a woman whose life is devoted to her poems, but also to the student poets with whom she works,” Lammon said. “We are lucky, and frankly, thrilled that she is part of our program.”
Friman is a small woman with sharp, perceptive eyes. She is the Poet-in-Residence at GC, and is the winner of the Georgia Author of the Year Award for Poetry, 2012. She has won a multitude of other awards, including the 2012 Pushcart Prize, New England Poetry Club’s 2011 Gretchen Warren Award and the first prize for poetry in the 2010 Monadnock Writers Group, among a long string of others.
When Friman took her place behind the podium, the entire room fell silent, leaning forward in their seats. Before delving into her reading, Friman intimately described how she became a poet. Her voice was strong and clipped in a Northern accent, giving away her birthplace of New York.
“I did not set out to write poetry, to choose a life dedicated to the lonely struggle of stringing words together. In a society of click-on instant gratification where we’re bombarded by messages promising paradise if we buy a certain brand of toilet paper, such word-stringing is negated,” Friman said. “But what was my choice? I wished to live deeply, not just on the surface of things.”
On Thursday’s reading, Friman read various poems from her new book “Vinculum,” including “Apollo Comes to Floyds Knobs, Indiana,” “Snow,” “My Father’s Chrysler” and “Silhouette.” She also dedicated a few poems to her husband, Bruce Gentry, GC English professor and editor of the “Flannery O’Connor Review.” These poems included “Love in the Time of Drought” and “On Loving a Younger Man.”
“Art begins where science leaves off,” Friman said. “And it was art that offered me a rope, not a rope to pull me out of life, but a rope to lower me more deeply in it. To go down under the glittering surface and come up with the news of what I found there. To hang on to the rope of language, just as the visual artist hangs on a rope of color and line, the composer a rope ladder of tones.”
GC alumnus Victor Pulizzi remembers that last line as the most meaningful one.
“I think Mrs. Friman has a way of explaining things so they seem magical but all the while relatable,” Pulizzi said. “She can look at the ordinary and see it as something more, like music being a language of tones.”
The poems were stirring and often inspiring. Jude Marr, a second-year graduate student at GC studying English, had a lot to say about the reading.
“Alice Friman knows exactly how to hold an audience in the palm of her outstretched hand,” Marr said. “Her poems are witty, wise and insightful about love, about death and even about marriage. Her words resonated Thursday night in spite of less than perfect acoustics.”
Nearing the end of the reading, Friman paused to scan over her rapt audience.
“Well, by the time you leave today, you’ll know more about me than you want.” Friman said with a smirk.
And it’s true. While listening to Friman’s poems, it’s easy take in all that this poet is: sharp, funny, wistful, wry, a Libra woman who sees the ordinary world and paints a more beautiful picture of it with her words.
Friman’s “Vinculum” is available for purchase through LSU Press, Amazon.com and select bookstores. For more information on Alice Friman and her other works, visit www.alicefriman.com.