Creative writing and English major Alyssa Froehling ’17 won first prize for poetry in a national contest sponsored by f(r)iction magazine, judged by poet Maggie Smith. Froehling’s winning poem, “eden,” was published in the print edition of f(r)iction. Here is an interview with Froehling—something she may need to get used to, soon.
Tell us about your poem. How did it make its way into the world?
This poem, “eden,” was a result of a creative writing directed study I completed with Rebecca Wee. Rebecca allowed me and another student, Emma Smith, to collaborate. We sent poems back and forth over email the entire term (and to this day, too, since the project was inspirational and motivational to us both!). Our collaboration involved taking a word, phrase, or idea from the previous poem sent and creating an original from whatever caught our attention.
In this poem, I focused a lot on anatomy, and vocabulary/imagery surrounding anatomy. A lot of my anxieties are concentrated in the impermanence of the body. This poem attempts to merge the physical decay of my body alongside the mental decay brought on by this fear.
The spine of the poem is reflecting on a deterioration of a pivotal relationship I once held as my highest priority. It wasn’t like losing a limb—it was as if I had lost all cartilage in my joints and all I accomplished when I tried to move forward was grinding my insides to dust. I lost a lot of joy over a rough year, and I wanted it back in the exact form I used to receive it. The poem is a realization that what I need to survive is not necessarily what helped me survive in the past.
When did you begin writing poetry? How did that happen?
Around 4th or 5th grade, I read e.e. cummings’ “somewhere i’ve never traveled.” I wanted to make other people feel the adrenaline and emotionality I felt when I read that poem. I wanted to make myself feel that from my own writing one day. Of course, I had a notebook of poetry in high school that brought embarrassing and angsty to uncharted territory.
By the time I reached college, I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I thought fiction was the genre I’d focus on. One poetry class with Rebecca Wee changed that very quickly. She saw something in me I didn’t see in myself; she taught me to believe and trust in my voice and lived experience.
What are your goals for your work, both poetic and professional?
Poetically, I just want to keep writing. Simple as that. I want to keep writing for myself, collaborating with the talented poets I met at Augustana as well as those I’ll meet in the future. I never want to lose the drive, accountability, or adrenaline rush I get from poems, even if everything I write is not the best.
Professionally, at this moment, I’m a frustrated 22 year-old. I’ve been exploring all sorts of writing and editing, beyond fields of creativity. Eventually, I’d love to return to school and earn an M.F.A., then maybe a Ph.D. Being able to affect others not only through writing, but teaching writing and poetry at a collegiate level, I think would make for an extremely fulfilling career.
Time will tell if that route is for me or if I stumble onto something unexpected. I’ve learned over and over to ambitiously work towards goals but that more often than not these goals evolve, dissolve, or mutate.
What are you up to right now?
I just moved in with two of my best friends in Mesa, Arizona. I’m a document proofreader for a company until February. Maybe I’ll be in an M.F.A. program by this time next year. Maybe I’ll be headed down a different career path, or in a different state. I never thought I’d end up here, after all.
For right now I love walking in the 108-degree dry heat at night, best friend on my left with her fluffy dog, Mr. Archibald Bojangles, waddling alongside us, or driving through the mountains on the 202, being too romantic about the landscape. As my friend Sage said before I left, “what’s more poetic than a cactus?”