Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Frances Richey

Frances Richey seemed more like a peer than a superior, stylishly wearing a vivid purple knit cardigan with a matching shirt and a belt around her waist.  Even her ornate earrings seemed unexpected to me to be worn by a middle-aged woman.  Regardless, I immediately knew that she had flair and I hoped her personality matched her creative style that initially drew me in.  She created a humble and compassionate atmosphere by greeting students arriving late with a “Thank you for coming, I’m glad you made it.” Instead of feeling irritated or set back, she happily volunteered to fill them in on the material they had missed.

            She has worked in sales and marketing before, so it is little surprise she could capture the attention of her audience.  She was chatty but articulate about serious matters. Her recent book “The Warrior,” is a collection of poems she wrote when her son decided to serve his country by joining the green berets.  It was a way for her to tell him about things that she couldn’t talk to him in person about.           

            I half-expected her poetry to be boring and cheesy, like I often disappointedly find poetry to be, but her talent for detail and imagery to combine with a subject that creates conflict and emotion was a welcome surprise.  For example, when she writes about her son’s graduation from West Point, she describes swallows overhead as “black butterflies,” whose “bloody throats arrived out of nowhere.”  I had been a little worried that her poems would be about something irrelevant to my life, like her lost love or something like that.  Instead, there was a motif of war, soldiers, and motherhood combined. I appreciated her more realistic poetry in comparison to the naïve or idealistic.

 I noticed an interesting reoccurring theme of vertigo throughout her poetry and I found it a dramatic tool to emphasize the hardship she faced with her son being away.

            By the time Ben grew up, Fran decided to start writing after attending a poetry workshop at a hospice where she was volunteering.  All of the death in the hospice taught her a lot, especially about how quickly life could end.  Her twenty years of employment in the business sector made her hospice work and yoga teaching seem ironic, but peaceful and youthful at the same time. She genuinely told us, “I’m interested in you,” and I believed her. With her sense of energy, her trendy clothes, and her ability to tell her life stories as if we were her best friends, it was as if Frances channeled her charisma from the teenagers in the audience themselves.