This poem, "The Singer," is about the missing. It began with the image of a skull with a decoration of ribbons. The middle, that is the connective tissue, in this case, the hair—gone. That image morphed into the whole idea of "the missing piece." I don't know how or why I came up with that image but I did, grateful always for any image that falls into my lap. Talking about the missing, I am reading a book right now that I want to recommend perhaps because it too is about "the missing." In this case missing childhoods but so much more. The book, Last Witnesses: an Oral History of the Children of World War II is by Svetlana Alexievich, the Belarusian author who won the 2015 Nobel Prize for literature. The book is a collection of adult reminiscences of childhood experiences during the war—Soviet children during World War II. Here in the United States we've never really experienced war. But in these pages each personal experience of war—bombing, strafing, starvation—is seen through a child's eyes and told with a child's artlessness, neither fancied up or explained. Just straight. The author provides no background material, no history, no political agenda. In other words, there is no middleman, no comfort of someone getting in the way of the raw experience. What was it like for a four years old to run for her life, her mama dead in a ditch and she covered in blood, alone and terrified with nowhere to go. That little girl tells you. Each remembrance, two or three pages, no more. The book, devastating.
Alice Friman was poet-in-residence at Georgia College and is professor emerita of English and creative writing at the University of Indianapolis. Her new book is Blood Weather. Her previous two collections also from LSU are The View from Saturn, and Vinculum, for which she won the 2012 Georgia Author of the Year Award in Poetry. She is a recipient of a Pushcart Prize and is included in Best American Poetry. Other books include Inverted Fire and The Book of the Rotten Daughter, both from BkMk Press, and Zoo, U of Arkansas Press, which won the Sheila Margaret Motton Prize from The New England Poetry Club and the Ezra Pound Poetry Award from Truman State University. Other awards include three prizes from The Poetry Society of America and awards from The New England Poetry Club. She has also been awarded the 2001 James Boatwright III Prize for Poetry from Shenandoah and the Ekphrasis Prize for Poetry 2012 from Ekphrasis, and the Paumanok Prize. Friman has received fellowships from the Indiana Arts Commission, the Arts Council of Indianapolis, MacDowell, Yaddo, Millay, VCCA, and the Bernheim Foundation.
Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Georgia Review, The Gettysburg Review, Ploughshares, New Letters, The Southern Review, The Massachusetts Review, and are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Hotel Amerika, and others.