Kristin Kowalski Ferragut
Ahead of the Curve, a Review of I Rode the Second Wave, Poetry by Fran Abrams
In I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir (Atmosphere Press, 2022), Fran Abrams plays her life back at fast pace and it’s quite a ride! But just because it’s a quick read and accessible, does not mean that it lacks nuance and depth. Indeed, each poem stands to open a period in time, yes, of one woman’s story, but also of national climate and culture. It’s an intriguing book that speaks as history, as well as intimately of one woman’s hopes, aspirations, and experiences.
The poems in this collection are presented chronologically, starting with an idyllic simple childhood of yesteryear. But from the lovely nostalgia of the first poem that carries into the second, I slam into a stanza about race in the context of “white flight” that packs quite a punch. And so it goes, poems of self-realization and sexism, love and racism, struggle and hope. I Rode the Second Wave is a personal memoir but reveals much about America.
I know Fran and am familiar with her work. I’ve read “Love in Black and White” before and cried the first time I read it too — gorgeous description of a love affair that I just wish would read differently every time I return to it. This collection covers from childhood, through college, grad school, marriage, raising children, and ends with a couple of reflection pieces. These poems don’t even touch on the incredible woman I’ve gotten to know who creates beautiful visual art pieces with polymer clay and writes poetry, always striving to explore and hone her craft. What an incredible thinker, artist, human, woman!
Although clearly poetry, each piece lyrical and self contained, this narrative work reads easily and builds a whole story. I suspect I Rode the Second Wave would be appreciated by anyone who enjoys reading not only poetry, but memoir or history as well.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite poems from the collection.
FRESHMAN SURPRISE, 1962
I remember my high school senior prom,
kissing Bobby in his Nash Rambler
as the windows fogged up.
He was the one who planned
to be a poet. He played the guitar
sang poems to me.
He went to college
in Minnesota. I went to Ohio.
We wrote letters.
Freshman year just before Thanksgiving,
sitting crossed-legged on my dorm room bed,
I opened his letter and saw —
I have met someone.
Her name is April.
We’re going to be married.
It was too long a trip to go home for Thanksgiving.
I was invited to Columbus, Ohio, to celebrate
with a friend and her family.
I wanted to go to Bobby’s house, confront him,
meet the other woman, make an ugly scene.
Instead, I packed for the trip to Columbus, tried to forget him.
Today I searched for him online.
He’s still in Minnesota,
retired professor of English,
author of four books,
father of three children.
Married, for the second time,
to someone who is not me.
and her visual arts website: https://www.franabrams.com/
Fran Abrams lives in Rockville, MD. She holds an undergraduate degree in art and architecture and a master’s degree in urban planning. For 41 years, she worked in government and nonprofit agencies in Montgomery County, MD, where her work involved writing legislation, regulations, memos, and reports.
She now devotes the most of her time to writing poetry. Since 2017, her poems have been published in Cathexis-Northwest Press, The American Journal of Poetry, MacQueen’s Quinterly Literary Magazine, The Raven’s Perch, Gargoyle 74, and others. In December 2021, she won the WWPH Winter Poetry Prize for her poem titled “Waiting for Snow.” Her first chapbook, titled “The Poet Who Loves Pythagoras,” is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. "I Rode the Second Wave: A Feminist Memoir," is her first full-length manuscript.