Friday, April 7, 2017

Meet Nick Norwood


now that you are here
amid crag and gleam
mist-rise and vapor
dark jade frothing
into white lace
here where the rains
come to gargle
spit jets of spray
see herons creep
smokestacks peer
through high windows
spirits sleep
spool and spindle
shaft and shackle
tie-snake and eagle
sit still
as an old powerhouse
and mind your moorings
the river roaring

© Nick Norwood

On Fridays in April to celebrate National Poetry Month, I will be introducing you to some of my "real life" poetry friends that you might enjoy knowing.

Today you will meet Nick Norwood. He is a professor of creative writing at Columbus State University. When I returned to school back in 2000 as a non-traditional student (old, in other words! I was 50 when I graduated),  Nick was my creative writing professor. He is much of the reason I am writing poetry today. 

Nick is also the director of the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians in Columbus, Georgia, and Nyack, New York. His poems have appeared many literary journals, including The Paris Review, The Wallace Stevens Journal, and The Oxford American. He has been featured at the PBS NewsHour site Art Beat, U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s syndicated column American Life in Poetry, and on NPR’s Writer’s Almanacwith Garrison Keillor

The poem above, "powerhouse," was a commissioned collaboration between Nick and  CSU art professor, Michael McFalls. The sculpture scrolls across the top of the retaining wall along Columbus' downtown Riverwalk exactly opposite the old Eagle and Phenix Mill house. Click here for a reading of the poem and comments by the poet, sculptor, and sponsors of the work.

And now enjoy these poems that Nick is sharing with us.


Shorty, lone ornament of the south pasture;
brawny, bristle-maned chestnut stuffed with clover.

A savage saddled: ornery, headstrong, mean.
But once, in a snit, I banged through the screen

and found him idle by the barbwire fence
just staring—calm, inert—toward the house

and got a wild hair, thought, I’ll stroke his muzzle.
Sidling up, age nine, my palm met his skull—

an anvil, a fieldpiece shrink-wrapped in hide—
and the news traveled up my arm. This cloud

of sweat and flies and moist, long-rifled breathing,
this piss-hot leathery stink, had being.

He was a beast, all right, but so was I.
At last we two were meeting eye to eye

and my brain forged for us an island north,
hardships braved, friendships kept, galloping forth. 

We stood long in Texas while the June sun
slowly moved, mid-morning; a calf went on

bawling for its mother. I remember
hearing my grandmother’s radio stir,

crackle, and settle on the local weather
as we were disappearing into the heather.

© Nick Norwood

From the interview, "Five Questions with Nick Norwood" by J. Aaron Sanders at The Negatives:

What is your philosophy of failure?
Writing poems is like cold-calling. I’ve heard that among salesman it’s considered success to have one out of 20 cold calls result in a sale. That means 19 of those calls were failures. Only 5% of the work succeeded. That seems about right. William Stafford defined a poet as a person who, in a lifetime of standing out of doors during thunderstorms, manages to get himself or herself struck by lightning two or three times. And Stafford’s own career is proof of that. Though he wrote many fine poems, anthologizing mostly reduced him to two or three, and really he’s known to most people by only one—his brilliant, beautiful, and sad “Traveling Through the Dark.” All of his other poems are, in a sense, failures of varying degree.


Dad dead, Mom—back in the bank, tellering—
started dressing in cute skirts and pants suits
she sewed herself from onionskin patterns
and bright-colored knits picked up at Cloth World.
Got her dark brunette hair cut in a shag.
And she and her single girlfriends from work
on a weekday night would leave me to “Love
American Style” or Mary Tyler Moore
and step out to hear the country house band
or now-and-then headliners like Ray Price
and Merle Haggard. Mom’s blue Buick Wildcat
shoulder to shoulder with the other Detroit
behemoths in the dim lot around back.
Wind skittering trash along the street. Bass
notes thumping through the sheet-metal walls
and the full swinging sound suddenly blaring
when a couple came in or out the door.
I know because I’m there, now, in the lot,
crouched behind the fender of a Skylark
or Riviera, in the weird green glow
of the rooftop Ronnie’s sign, not keeping tabs
on Mom, not watching out, just keeping time
with the band and sipping a Slurpee
while she dances through this two-year window
before getting re-hitched, settling back down.
Just twenty-seven, twenty-eight years old,
looking pretty, and having the time of her life.

©Nick Norwood


Remember the first time
you let yourself in—
stunned by the sheer
silence of it all,

the sunlight blooming
on mute, blank-faced
walls. And how you
stormed, then,

from room to room
blistering furniture
and framed photographs
with your hollering,

commanding the sunlight
to go away go away
because you wanted
to be alone.

Remember how you
yelled yourself
and scared.

And how eventually
you dropped
into your mother’s chair
and watched

that same sunlight creep
silently across floors,
up walls,
and let itself out.

© Nick Norwood

If you would like to hear Nick reading, click here for PBS News Hour's Art Beat.

I hope you enjoyed meeting my friend. Irene Latham hosts the roundup today at Live Your Poem. Be sure to stop by. There are so many wonderful ways to celebrate National Poetry Month in the Kidslitosphere. And if you haven't been following Irene's progressive poem, be sure to check out the links below and catch up.


1 Heidi at my juicy little universe
2 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
3 Doraine at Dori Reads
4 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
5 Diane at Random Noodling
6 Kat at Kat's Whiskers
7 Irene at Live Your Poem
8 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
9 Linda at TeacherDance
10 Penny at blog-a- penny-and- her-jots
11 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
12 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
13 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
14 Jan at Bookseedstudio
15 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
16 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
17 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Buffy at Buffy's Blog
19 Pat at Writer on a Horse
20 BJ at Blue Window
21 Donna at Mainely Write
22 Jone at Jone Ruch MacCulloch
23 Ruth at There's No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
24 Amy at The Poem Farm
25 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
28 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
29 Charles at Poetry Time
30 Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids


  1. I love meeting real-life creatives! Such a true perspective on the realities of the creative life - you need to develop a pretty thick skin, and a deep well of self-belief, to succeed as an artist of any form!

    1. A thick skin and a deep well. You are so right, Jane.

  2. Thank you for introducing Nick. How lovely to have him as a friend. He writes of the heart of himself, those moments we forget and now his poems remind. I am thankful for that connection from poems. I enjoyed the philosophy of failure bit too. Something to re-read once in a while. Thanks, Dori!

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed Nick's poems. When I first met him, he wasn't writing many "personal" poems, so seeing his progression into this arena has been fun.

  3. Lucky you to have such a talented poet friend. I'm glad you introduced him to the rest of us!

  4. Powerhouse is stunning....just stunning. I would love to read and write and learn with such a friend. You are most fortunate as we are in your sharing. Have a great week. I'm rich from this PF stop.

    1. It is a beautifully, powerful poem. I love walking the river and reading as I go. A tremendous sense of place in the old mill town.

  5. Thank for introducing Nick. I love the poem about the boy and Shetland pony.

    1. I really like that one, especially his description of the head--"a fieldpiece shrink-wrapped in hide."

  6. An in-the-flesh poetry friend? Lucky you! I like the physical setting for "Powerhouse." It reminds me of Lowell, MA, where poetry is found throughout the city.

    1. Yep. In the flesh. I haven't been to Lowell, but knowing it is a mill town on a river, I'm sure there are similarities. It's good to know there is poetry everywhere.

  7. Thank you! This was so interesting. I especially like Nick's philosophy of failure. I've had the same thought glimmer (only not thought through or expressed so articulately). Perhaps that's why my poetry closet bulges, while my blog keeps complaining: I have nothing to wear!

  8. You're so funny! You do have several blogs to keep clothed!

  9. Powerful poetry, engaging voice. The proof is in the details. Painters often get only one or two masterpieces. The rest of them are learning everything needed to achieve the masterpiece. I prefer to view poems that don't quite make it to masterpiece level as part of the required journey to get from first understanding your own soul to expressing it so well that it touches the soul of another. None of that can truly be failure.

  10. Thank you for a new poet and a new quote for my writing "quote wall" (the stickies on my Mac). I hope to continue to fail as well as I possibly can, and I'm looking forward to my lightning strikes. I think I've had one so far, but we'll see what time tells.

  11. What a friend to have! He yanked me into vivid, emotional scenes that caught all of my senses! WOW!

  12. "Latchkey" is the poem that jumped out at me. Thanks for introducing us to Nick's work, Dori.

  13. This was wonderful, Dori! I so enjoyed meeting Nick Norwood and reading some of his work. The poem that captured me most was "Ronnie's."