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Alice Friman

Published Date: October 1, 1999

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80 pages

About this book

Her metaphors slice through comfortable conventions of nature, family, love, and history. Vultures flock to carrion and “spread / their wings into a tablecloth of frenzy.” A male lion takes a dead leopard’s head “in his jaws, argues it like a cat with a mole.” With equal skill, Friman can also light up quieter moments. A neglected ceiling threatens to crash down “in a blizzard of broken sidewalks,” and in the middle of family tension sits the daughter “curled in the living room chair, the eye / of the storm drowning herself in a book.”


Whether she confronts the ghosts of family, the bewildering violence of nature, or the phantoms of love in the here and now, Friman tears away the gauzy veils with her diamond-hard imagination. She never takes her eyes off her subjects, always aware that the beasts are watching, too. Line by line, she takes this frightening, beautiful zoo and offers it up to us in poems that contain but do not strangle the life out of it. The bars of her lines and stanzas bend and tense while animals roar inside. Zoo testifies to the ability of language to make the familiar new in the hands of a skilled maker.

About the author

Alice Friman, born in New York City, is professor emerita of English and creative writing at the University of Indianapolis. Published in ten countries and anthologized widely, she has produced seven collections of poetry, including Inverted Fire. Among her numerous honors are three prizes from the Poetry Society of America, a fellowship from the Indiana Arts Commission, and the 1998 Ezra Pound Poetry Award for this collection.


“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.”

—X. J. Kennedy

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