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March 3, 2007AWP Conference, Atlanta, GAFrom the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

On January 26, 1960, Nick Flynn was born in Scituate, Massachusetts, on Boston’s South Shore. He worked as a ship's captain and at a homeless shelter in Boston before being awarded a fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. After the two-year fellowship he moved to New York, where he got his MFA from New York University and taught in Columbia University’s Writing Project.

He is the author of two books of poetry, Blind Huber (Graywolf, 2002), and Some Ether (2000), which was the recipient of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award.

Flynn’s work has been described as post-confessional, primarily because of the poems in Some Ether, which focused on his mother’s suicide when he was twenty-two, his difficult childhood, and his stilted family life. In Blind Huber, however, the poems eschew Flynn’s history and focus on the life of the blind beekeeper, Francoise Huber, who lived in the 18th Century.

While the subject matter may differ dramatically, in all of Nick Flynn’s work there is the struggle for connectivity in a disjointed and harsh reality. As Claudia Rankine noted about Some Ether, "We are guided by a stunning and solitary voice into lives that have spiritually and physically imploded. No one survives and still there is so much to be felt. Here is sorrow and madness reconciled to humanity."

Nick Flynn is also the author of the memoirs, The Ticking Is the Bomb: A Memoir (W.W. Norton, 2010), and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (2004), which received the PEN/Martha Albrand Award and has been widely translated. He was awarded “Discovery”/The Nation Prize, and received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Amy Lowell Trust. He teaches part time at the University of Houston.

Emptying Town

Nick Flynn, 1960


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Nick Flynn

Nick Flynn

In 1960, Nick Flynn was born in Scituate, Massachusetts, on Boston’s South Shore

by this poet


If this bowl is always empty

If it breathes if it’s lung

If a horse can rise from the ashes

Saul was a sailor on the boat to Damascus

He did not know what he was

Paul turned to a voice it rose up from the waves

It chained his boat to the


Try this—close / your eyes. No, wait, when—if—we see each other / again the first thing we should do is close our eyes—no, / first we should tie our hands to something / solid—bedpost, doorknob— otherwise they (wild birds) / might startle us / awake. Are we forgetting something? What about that / warehouse, the one


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