George Small Franklin III, visionary poet and essayist, tender, witty and inspiring comrade, died in the early morning hours of June 7 in Hopkinton. He was 71.
Born and raised in New York City and Oyster Bay, New York, George graduated in 1975 from Harvard, where his poetic gift flowered under the influence of extraordinary teachers and like-minded, “same-hearted” peers, many of whom remained friends for life. He went on to obtain master’s degrees from Brown and Columbia. A devoted explorer of the most profound existential questions, he spent many years in ashrams established by Swami Muktananda around the world. There, he participated in mystical heart-awakening and consciousness-expanding practices guided by Yoga and Kashmir Shaivite philosophies, which greatly influenced his life and work.
Throughout his adulthood, he was a writer, motivated by a fundamental belief in the transformative power of poetry. He leaves behind an extraordinary body of essays, stories and, above all, much-lauded poems. Four of his books have been published to date, “The Fall of Miss Alaska” (2008), “Some Segments of a River” (2019), “Voicing Orpheus” (2022) and “Portraits from Life” (2022), and more are to follow. His poems and essays also have appeared widely in literary journals. His erudition could astonish: In addition to his profound knowledge of poets of every type and vintage, from John Keats to John Ashbery, he was fluent in the works of a vast array of philosophers and literary critics. Maharashtrian poet-saints, Christian mystics, Hellenistic sages, and Kabbalistic masters all figured in his writing. He could see the connections between many disparate ways of knowing and make them thrillingly accessible to others.
Scholarly pursuits aside, he also had fun talking about sports, politics and even reality TV. His warmth and quirky humor were unmatched. He delighted in young people, especially his nieces and nephews, and was a treasured mentor. Always underestimating his impact on others, he was often cited as a life-changer, even a lifesaver, by those whose lives he touched even briefly. His valiant refusal to give in to crippling illness, his deep unfailing insight and compassion, and his heroic pursuit of his vocation in the face of all obstacles were an inspiration to all who knew him.
George is survived by three loving sisters, Helena Rozier (and husband Charles) of Peterborough, New Hampshire; Cynthia Franklin of San Anselmo, California; and Sheila Lieber (and husband Thomas) of Oyster Bay, New York; as well as four adoring nieces and nephews, Joshua and Matthew Lieber and Laura and Anna Rozier.
A memorial service will be held this summer. Arrangements are under the care of the Chesmore Funeral Home of Hopkinton.
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