Denice Frohman reads poetry at Uptown

Maximus Bean, News Co-Editor

Denice Frohman came to Bucknell’s Uptown to serve as the Women’s History Month Keynote Speaker on March 8 from 7-8 p.m.

The description for the event said that, “Denice is a poet, performer, and educator whose work has appeared nationally and internationally. Her work explores the complexities of language, lineage, queerness, and the colonial relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico. Frohman sees her poetry as a tool for social change, cultural preservation, and aims to subvert traditional notions of power and knowledge.”

At the event, people sat cross-legged and packed out the house, and laughed along with Frohman as she read her works. Frohman spoke much about her experiences with her race, gender and sexuality during the event. 

“I went to college thinking Latinos didn’t write poetry, deadass,” Frohman said.

She said there were many risks that people like her had to face. In Puerto Rico, many lesbians had to use fake names, she said, “We were all ‘Maria’, ‘Maria something.”

‘Maria’ was a pseudonym used for the local woman who wanted to meet in secret, she said.

She wrote about clubs where she could come out, before she came out to her parents, and about how they were a safe haven for her and the gay community. In her poem, she wrote about how “not far from [the clubs],” people were shouting slurs and burning dresses to protest them. In her words, “We were who our mothers warned us about.”

She said that “Poetry is an opportunity to slow down time,” and reflected on her own colonial heritage. She wondered if she inherited “colonial impulses.” 

Frohman ended the event with a Q&A. When asked about how she made language “sound good,” she answered that she came from a very musical family, and that the musicality of language came “very naturally” to her.

“It’s not something you have to be born with, but with Puerto Rican culture, we have a very oral history,” she said. “The Spanish language is a very physical language.” 

Poetry “sings true in the body” to Frohman. It is “sound over sense.” One of the biggest lessons she learned from poetry was that “The breath is not where the line ends…don’t equate a line with a breath.”

Something else is that “Poetry gave me the space to speak about my own experience in a nuanced way,” Frohman said. 

She invited viewers to live their lives more honestly, and use their language to the fullest extent.

She said that “We could all build an intent relationship with language. I come from the school of hard knocks when it comes to literature, when it comes to poetry.”

On the Poetry Foundation website, it says about Frohman’s work that, it had been “featured in anthologies such as “Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color,” “Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism,” the second edition of “Reading, Writing, and Rising Up,” and others. Her work has been commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the city of Philadelphia, and as part of Twitter’s #HereWeAre campaign.”

The Women’s History Month events were sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center. This month coincides with the Milestone of 100 years of women in engineering, where 2023 is the centennial anniversary of the first woman graduate of Bucknell’s engineering program. The theme for the month is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.”

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