On the Poetry of Alice Friman

It’s not only that Alice Friman’s work has appeared in dozens of anthologies including The Best American Poetry (2009) and a Pushcart Prize collection (XXXVI), or that her poems have been published in the most prestigious journals including Poetry, The Southern Review, Georgia Review, Gettysburg Review, New Letters, Southern Poetry Review, Alaska Quartely Review (and the list could go on and on) – it’s that her poetry just grabs us by the scruff of the neck and won’t let go.

Kelly Cherry praises Friman’s poems for their “brilliant language, startling imagery, fiercely accurate allusion, and bravery.” This is a poet who, as Judith Kitchen puts it, combines “serious frivolity with fervent solemnity.” “The sorrowful runs alongside the absurd: the living collide with the dead,” said Robin Becker in The Women’s Review of Books.

In awarding Alice Friman the 2012 Georgia Author of the Year Award for Poetry, Ralph T. Wilson describes Friman’s poems as being “mature and sustained in vision, with an eloquence that illustrates poetry as a species of musical speech while retaining a quality still conversational. The poems are insightful, witty, and beautifully made.”

It is perhaps Friman’s wit that draws me to her work over and over. Always succinct, always with language that not only sparkles but dances off the page and yet also feels as if the poet is right there in the room talking to you, and talking hard-scrabble sense, telling you what you’ve needed to hear all along and weren’t quite brave enough to admit.

For these are indeed “brave poems,” writes Brooke Horvath in Prairie Schooner; “exploratory, less the repository of answers than traces of the search for them, ‘knowing / full well the coming sacrifice, / the shriveling end’” (“The Price”). As Jo McDougall puts it, these are poems “as rich and textured as novels. Lusty, nuanced, and crisply wise, they remind us who and what we tragically, comically are.” “Exciting, these poems,” Peggy Shumaker says about Friman’s fifth collection Vinculum. “Impatient, irreverent, irrepressible. Defiant. Dazzling.”

In awarding the Ezra Pound Poetry Prize to Zoo, Friman’s third full-length collection, X. J. Kennedy said, “Here’s a poet with lively eyes, ears, and imagination. Her poems engrave themselves in memory by their accurate metaphors and sharp details. She can be wild without losing control, tender without ever waxing sentimental.”

The poems included here are just a small sample of the wit, the dazzle, the courage of Alice Friman’s exquisitely crafted work.




Wendy Barker has published five collections of poetry and three chapbooks, most recently Nothing Between Us, a novel in prose poems (Del Sol Press, 2009) and Things of the Weather (Pudding House, 2009). Other books include a selection of poems with accompanying essays, Poems’ Progress (Absey & Co., 2002) and a collection translated in collaboration with Saranindranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore: Final Poems (Braziller, 2001). She has also published a scholarly study, Lunacy of Light: Emily Dickinson and the Experience of Metaphor (Southern Illinois University Press, 1987) and co-edited (with Sandra M. Gilbert) The House is Made of Poetry: The Art of Ruth Stone (Southern Illinois University Press, 1996). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Georgia Review, Southern Review and Gettysburg Review. Recipient of NEA and Rockefeller fellowships, she is Poet-in-Residence and the Pearl LeWinn Endowed Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Texas at San Antonio.


  1. And I also thank you, Wendy,for introducing me to Friman’s poetry. I will buy a collection (or two!) and introduce her to my classes as well.

    What a treat to find online!

    Best wishes,


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