I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
~Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
On the first of each month,
a guest writer
how he or she spends the day.
November 1, 2019: Nick Norwood
As many of you know, I travel a lot and meet writers from all over. But I’ve been negligent in connecting with writers where I live. I’m going to work on that. Which makes me especially proud to introduce the poet Nick Norwood, who lives in Columbus, GA, as the next writer in the series.
I met Nick a few months ago when he gave me a tour of Carson McCullers’ house here in Columbus. Nick is not only a poet and a professor at Columbus State University’s College of Literature and Sciences, but he is also the Director of the CSU Carson McCullers Centers in Columbus, GA and Nyack, New York.
For the last few years, without knowing who wrote it, I’ve been enjoying part of his poem titled “Eagle & Phoenix Dam.” Sixty-two words of it can be found in a cool art installation above the RiverWalk near the old Eagle and Phenix Mill. Nick and the sculptor Michael McFalls, also a CSU professor, collaborated on the project.
It’s so awesome to see poetry out in the world that I would like to spend this whole post talking about this one thing. But I have more to say about Nick’s work. [So for more on the poetry sculpture, click Eagle & Phoenix Dam.]
I gazed across the Chattahoochee
as she skimmed her shadow
over sloped banks crawling with kudzu
saw her snatch a sunfish
from its given, giving world,
wormhole it out of time mid-swim
and cart it aloft to be stricken
in the bright white air.
The “Phenix City Story” tells the story of an older local woman, sick, calling for Ezekiel. The poem takes us through her December, January, February, and March with details of plastic over her windows, the five-and-dime clock, the clot of crumpled Kleenex, the Salvation Army truck.
She burned the leaflets
and old bills and catalogs
in the rusted trash barrel
out back: they still do that here.
She had to admit, it was kind
of beautiful to watch: the fumes
and bit of feathery paper
wafting up, the dark, thin smoke.
But the stink of it: pure
Alabama. Good riddance,
she thinks, and goodbye.
The poems in this collection are wrapped around moments that ripple out. In “Latchkey,” about the first time a child lets himself into an empty house, Nick makes the poem bigger than itself by slowing time. In Ronnie’s, Nick expands the moment by moving in one breath from summary to scene. In “Old School,” it’s language that enlarges the moment. “Around / the corner, home, into your room. / And–soft, slow–close the door.”
As in the compelling Gravel and Hawk, this collection also includes poems in memoriam. These i.m. poems, like the other poems, focus on a moment but seem to capture a person’s whole life. Nick writes one for his great-grandmother, his great-grandfather, and so many others. I just loved “Aunt Sue,” which takes a broader view than some of the other i.m. poems but leaves us smack in the middle of a moment.
And where your secretary found you in bed,
turned off the television, picked up the phone.
And I will leave you with this. The first of the i.m. poems I read was in Gravel and Hawk and written for Nick’s father. In the moment of the poem, the father is shaving and singing and then the time jump will grab your heart. Please click over for “A.M.” You can read it and/or listen to Nick read it. And then,
Come back on NOVEMBER 1st to read how NICK NORWOOD spends his days.