Alice Friman’s “Vinculum” embraces the internal, the deep inside, the emotional interior as it interacts with our biological makeup. A “vinculum, ” the horizontal line that appears between two numbers that are being divided, or to indicate repeating digits in a decimal, can also be translated as a “bond” or “tie” between two ideas. Friman’s attempt at creating a connective tissue between her poems is so successful that often individual poems fold back into themselves, each moment relating and recreating another.
“Vinculum” seems to work with three major concepts: the body, the location, the emotional moment or instance. In almost all of the poems there is an interaction between these that gives the reader a strong, multidimensional experience. From her poem, “The Waiting Room,” she writes:
Imagine the humiliations of the flesh
fumbling to cover up in that waiting room
of white trees, those totems of eyes. Imagine
your mother, her sparse patch. The unopened
pink purse that is your daughter. Then now,
with the wind up and the whipping grasses
wild at your knees, before the dogs come,
hurry write the choke of terror.
This examination of how the body can interact with a given landscape seems, at times, to be both complicated and chaotic. Friman’s language is dense, or, the poems themselves require a certain level of unpacking. “Vinculum” is sectioned into six parts (the last part is a postlude). The sections were incredibly helpful, as they allow the reader to move through the collection without getting too overwhelmed by the thickness of each piece, adding a quick breath in which one could recover and therefore, re-immerse.
Friman’s relentless, beautiful analysis of our in-betweenness, our connectedness, the “ropes that seethed from me to you and back again,” ultimately gives the reader a direct way to identify with the speaker. “Vinculum” does not shy away from personal interactions, and it openly, fearlessly, but often gracefully, crosses our boundaries. (Kelly Forsythe)
By Alice Friman
LSU Press, 96 pages, $17.95