cover of book

Zoo: Poems
by Alice Friman
University of Arkansas Press, 1999
eISBN: 978-1-61075-476-7 | Paper: 978-1-55728-566-9
Library of Congress Classification PS3556.R5685Z39 1999
Dewey Decimal Classification 811.54


Alice Friman writes her poems with a razor-like intensity. Her metaphors slice through comfortable conventions of nature, family, love, and history. Vultures flock to carrion and “[s]pread / 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 diamondhard imagination. She never takes her eyes off the 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.

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