Kansas City can be inspiring in surprising ways. A walk in the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art did the trick for Georgia College’s poet-in-residence, Alice Friman, who reads Thursday evening at Rockhurst University.
Alice Friman is a fearless poet—unafraid to be bawdy, wise-cracking and truth-telling in her work filled with all types of desire. The author of six poetry books, including her 2014 collection, The View from Saturn, Friman may have been named the 2012 Author of the Year in Georgia, where she now lives, but she holds a special place in her heart for this part of the world.
Two of her earlier books, Inverted Fire and The Book of the Rotten Daughter were published in Kansas City by UMKC’s BkMk Press, while nearby Truman State University awarded her the Ezra Pound Poetry Award for her third book, Zoo. Friman is also a frequent contributor to UMKC's literary magazine New Letters.
"I’m from Manhattan in New York," said Friman, during a reading recorded at The Writer's Place in 2000. "I didn’t even know where Kansas City was. I didn’t even know where Missouri was. Was it on the other side of the Hudson River? And now, suddenly, Kansas City has become this Mecca for me."
Artist Henry Moore's bronze sculptures at the Nelson-Atkins Museum inspired Friman to write the poem, "Lost in Space," published in The Book of the Rotten Daughter:
How turned in
these women are, complete
in their big bronze lives.
Even the reclining one, knob for head
and no delineations—no nose,
no nipples, no sunshine slot. No limbs
reaching from the body, no wild music
pinging in her thigh. Nothing but a hole
big as a fist drilled through her chest.
Yet how complacent, ho-hum she is
about that gap being there, surrounded by
a flesh polished to a bronze Pacific
that can't remember a time the hole
was ever filled, with fire maybe or gristle
or a daisy, simple as a heart.
Today the museum is filled
with mistakes. Even the information plaques
are wrong. Euterpe for Terpsichore.
One muse taken for the other.
The one who danced, lost
like the dance itself, fallen through
and forgotten, there being no plug,
no thumb in the dike big enough to hold it.
It's easy to play bloodhound
when something is left—a dirty sock,
two sneakers kicked off under a desk,
a whiff of pencil shavings, and the child
is home once more doing her algebra
before the telephone call
and the calendar page never to be turned again.
But a hole with no stopper
is a tub of everything that matters
running out, a perpetual wash of thoroughness.
The grand design of flush and swirl.
Might as well tickle a dead body
as ask a woman with a lobotomy in her chest
to remember where the dazzle went
or the lost dance in which to find it.
Midwest Poets Series presents poet Alice Friman, Thursday, October 30, at 7 pm, Mabee Theater, Sedgwick Hall, Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Mo. Admission is $3 at the door, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
New Letters on the Air, public radio's longest-running literary program, is a half-hour program that is produced by New Letters magazine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Listen to the entire interview with Alice Friman here.