In Memoriam: Norman Friedman (1925-2014)
"life's not a paragraph"
On Thursday, November 6, 2014, we learned the sad news of the death of Norman
Friedman, the first and finest Cummings scholar, and (with David V. Forrest
and Richard S. Kennedy) the founder of Spring
and The E. E. Cummings Society. Our condolences go out to his wife, Zelda,
and to all of his family.
and life: a master of attention to the syntax of things,
nonetheless for whom feeling was forever
—from Bernard, with no parenthesis
[Bernard F. Stehle, on behalf of The E. E.
A memorial service for Norman was held on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014 at Sinai
Chapels in Forest Meadows, New York. Norman's son gave the eulogy for his
father and his daughter Janet read a poem of Norman's, "Michael Ravi Raman,
Born Easter Sunday, April 19, 1987."
Janet's daughter Rachel read Norman's "Time, the Heartless Runner,"
first published in 1959:
TIME, THE HEARTLESS RUNNER
Time, the heartless runner behind!
I heard his gaining cruel breath
approaching as a fatal wind.
And so he paced me down that path.
Too soon he was alive beside
me, the savage athlete coming fast!
I gasped for speed, and almost cried
to feel him racing narrowly past.
And then I saw his sweaty back,
his muscles tight around the bone,
the vicious champion of the track!
I would have run much worse alone.
Norman Friedman in 1960
At the end of the service, Zelda read Cummings' poem "since feeling is first,"
prefacing the reading by noting that it was "one of Norm's favorite Cummings
poems. It is a courtship poem, a love poem, a life poem and a poem for all
of us at this moment."
Norman lives on in so many ways, not the least in his published works and
in the memories of his students and friends.
more now than dying’s when”
Here are some tributes to Norman, in reverse order in which they were received
Tributes to Norman Friedman
I never met Norman Friedman, but his books, his deep understanding of Cummings'
spirit greatly helped me to translate the poems of "our nonhero".
My sympathy to his wife, family and friends.
I never had the chance to meet Norman, but in reading through your emails,
I have been struck by how his spirit of generosity lives on in the Cummings
Society. I gave my first conference presentation at a Cummings panel in 2008,
and I felt very much welcomed and encouraged by Mike, Gillian, Etienne, and
everyone in a way similar to how many of you shared how Norman welcomed you
and your work. The Cummings Society has been a major influence in where I
am today, and I now have a much clearer understanding as to why the Cummings
Society is so unique: Norman was and is a nonhero, and like EEC, a nonhero's
spirit contagiously affects the people around him.
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees,
I was shocked and dismayed to learn of Norman Friedman's death. He has been
very important to me as I have in recent years continued my work on the writings
of E. E. Cummings. I recently reviewed all my past correspondence with him
and realized that I did not always respond to his suggestions - and even
invitations! I plan to remedy that, partly as a thank you for his invaluable
service to all of us for many years.
Yes, I agree, we are all obviously uniting our voices here to remember Norman
as a philanthropist and great lover of people and literature.
Personally, I'll always remember his enthusiasm and warmth when welcoming
me in New York as a PHD student on EEC. That day gave a new and truer dimension
to my work as Norman had known EEC and had been there till his last day.
I hope that Zelda can be reassured as now it is EEC in turn who is welcoming
him over there, their fingers not writing or painting but uniting and dancing,
"the impressed fingers of sublime
Memory,of that loveliness receiving
the image (all our) proud heart(s) (will forever) cherish as fair"
(Sonnets, Unrealities, II, 137).
Zelda and Norman have been in my thoughts all week. It was a shock
to be in the middle of a conference last week and hear about Norman’s passing.
It took me back to my first ALA conference in the late ‘80s and all the ALA
Cummings sessions after that. I felt welcomed by them both—even when
I was a very young, awkward scholar of perhaps 23 years. Norman was
always helpful and encouraging. I am so proud to tell everyone that
I meet that I am part of this wonderful group of EEC scholars. Even if I
have been absent in recent years, Norman, Zelda and all of you are part of
who I am.
I too look forward to many reflective pieces in Spring. He cared deeply about this work,
so it is time for me to return to EEC in his honor. I will think of
him as I write!
Norman was the Chair of the Cummings Society when I started attending ALA
as a graduate student in the 1980s. He and Zelda took me under their
wings immediately and made me feel like my fledgling work was valued.
They set the welcoming tone that characterizes this group to this day.
What fine founders all of those early Cummings scholars were.
From Madrid in Euroland,
I think that we all should write something about our relationship with Norman
and Zelda for the next issue of Spring.
That's the best tribute for a generous person who, in my case, helped so
much with my PhD and later publications and, considering the time difference,
patiently woke up in the middle of the night when in the 1990s I sent him
faxes asking questions about Mr. Cummings.
Thanks a lot, Norman.
Teresa González Mínguez
Norman was a fine scholar and a gentle, kind man. It says something
about your scholarship when you write not only the first critical monograph
on a major poet, but one that remains, after many decades, the best single
study of Cummings's poetry. I had the honor and pleasure of meeting
Norman and Zelda several times at Cummings sessions of conferences and when
we each lectured at the other's university during the Cummings centennial.
Each meeting, professional or social, reinforced my feeling that they were
a gracious, charming couple. Many of you know that Norman (and Zelda
too, I believe) was a practicing psychologist. I had a chance to see
and benefit from this side of his wisdom when he kindly advised me on some
problems I was having with my adolescent daughter. The advice, like
all of Norman's insights, was offered gently--and gratefully received.
That was Norman. We'll miss him.
I have never been more grateful for a friendship or more honored by one than
that with Norman and Zelda. I'm happy to have expressed that to them while
Norman was still with us, and it was always with the greatest sincerity.
I know that Zelda will be sustained now by the bonds shared in those final
years, even as I offer my sympathy for the inevitability of her loss. I hope
she finds comfort in the outpouring of shared memories and tributes that
I read online this evening, as I add my voice to that chorus.
Thanks for letting me know, Mike. Very sorry to hear.
After finding out about Norman, I had a yen to read up on him at Wikipedia
and was shocked to be unable to find an entry on him. Is there one?
I'm not a big admirer of Wikipedia but it can be handy for surface views
of various subjects, so I'd like it to have entries on all the writers I
admire--including, for certain, Norman. Would any
of our society's younger admirers of Cummings be interested in making an
entry on him? I wish I had time to myself, but . . .
all best, Bob Grumman
Like Todd, Norman was my first connection to the Cummings Society, and he
became a sort of mentor to me, as I'm sure he was to many. I always felt
honored to be part of the society and to have the great Norman Friedman comment
on my work. Through his encouragement I was able to accomplish and achieve
more than I ever thought I could. He was not only a brilliant scholar
but an inspiring teacher, a generous colleague, and an unforgettable person.
Norman was the editor of Spring
when I submitted my first work on E. E. Cummings. He was very encouraging
and supportive. I only met him once during a conference panel
that I participated in, but as so many others have noted, his work and its
influence is indisputable.
In Memoriam Norman Friedman
(#14 73 Poems, CP 786)
how generous is that himself the sun
(never a moment ceasing to begin
the mystery of day for someone’s eyes)
with goldenly his fathering
and our night’s thousand million miracles
(#84 95 Poems, CP 756)
over us if(as what was dusk becomes
strictly immeasurable nowhere flames
to call the stars, Norman and Cummings,
(#69 95 Poems, CP 741)
whose absence would have made your whole life and my
(and infinite our)merely to undie
(#45 73 Poems, CP 817)
"i carry your books with me(i carry them in my heart"; you're with stars
now and we remember. Our thoughts and prayers are with Zelda and family,
Gillian Huang-Tiller and Ken Tiller
University of Virginia-Wise
Norman's influence extends across boundaries here into South Africa, where
I've been carrying him, carrying him in my heart. To read his work has been
one of those turning-point experiences. To have met him in Boston was the
most gentle mind-blow. He and Zelda like that, beautifully smallish within
a very tangible aura of living well, in touch with each other and life. You
could feel his big, gentle, clear heart from a distance. I will never forget
him, and it actually hurts, stings, to think that he won't be lightly treading
this Earth with us any further. Not to mention missing his further writing
on our non-hero.
Words fail, and so they should.
Dick Bailey, who hired me at the University of Michigan in 1985 and also
died just recently, was Norman's student.
Over my 27 years here of teaching at Michigan, before I retired last year,
this lead to many spirited conversations between us about Norman, E.E, etc.
So sorry to hear of Norman's passing.
I admire everything Norman wrote about E.E.
The body of work is beautiful.
On this point, what more can you say?
Norman once told me he wanted "forgetting me, remember me" to be thought
of at his passing. So, I imagine, would most of us.
David V. Forrest
Thanks for your input on Norman. We were colleagues for years. As you say
He lives on.
Thanks, Michael. N. lived the EEC spirit.
A Norman Friedman Bibliography
14 & 15 (2005 / 2006) [Special Norman Friedman Double Issue]:
Lewis Turco, "The
Passing of Norman Friedman"
Michael Dylan Welch, "Tribute
to Norman Friedman"