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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 City, where he earned his MFA from New York University and taught in Columbia University’s Writing Project.

He is the author of the poetry collections My Feelings (Graywolf Press, 2015), The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands (Graywolf Press, 2011), Blind Huber (Graywolf Press, 2002), and Some Ether (Graywolf Press, 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 focus 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 Reenactments (Graywolf Press, 2013), The Ticking Is the Bomb (W. W. Norton, 2010), and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (2004), which received the PEN/Martha Albrand Award, has been widely translated, and was adapted into the film Being Flynn. He was awarded the “Discovery”/The Nation Prize and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Library of Congress, and the Amy Lowell Trust. He teaches part-time at the University of Houston and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Bibliography

Poetry

My Feelings (Graywolf Press, 2015)
The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands (Graywolf Press, 2011)
Blind Huber (Graywolf Press, 2002)
Some Ether (Graywolf Press, 2000)

Prose

The Reenactments (Graywolf Press, 2013)
The Ticking Is the Bomb (W. W. Norton, 2010)
Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (W. W. Norton, 2004)

The Incomprehensibility

The newly dead hung on to the ceiling last night  

            like moths, wanting to tell us what they hadn’t

              found words for yet, their bodies still


warm on their mattresses below—they did not look

              comfortable, passing themselves on the way

                      out . . . . Only mystery allows us


to live—Lorca wrote this on the back of one of his many

                drawings of a sailor, or of many sailors. Only

                          mystery & yet or so


I pull myself back again to a place wherein I can com-

               prehend, if only a glimmer, the moment my mother

                   will press a bullet into the chamber of her .38—


think of Fra Angelico’s Annunciation—nothing has happened,

              not yet, Mary’s back is to the Angel, his hand

                 hovers over her shoulder, not touching her, not


yet. It’s still not too late to turn back—a Sunday morning,

              we can hear the ocean, we can smell it, if we could get up

                       we could even see it. Junkies


can go to a clinic in downtown Vancouver now to shoot up

                      in safety—We can help them find

                  the vein, the pretty nurse says,


but we cannot depress the plunger . . . As I write this a Boeing 777

               along with all two hundred & thirty-nine souls onboard  

                        vanishes from the sky—


no distress call, no black box, no wreckage. By the time you

                 read this we will all know what happened (wormhole?  

                      drunk pilot?) but right now it is simply


gone. Let’s look again at the Annunciation, let’s think of

               the angel as a pretty nurse, let’s think of her wings as

                          possibility, her silence


as a syringe. Let’s put my mother in that airplane now, let’s

             let her circle forever, let’s imagine she too is unable to

                land. She glances out the window, sometimes


at the tops of the clouds, sometimes at someone’s sad house

           below. I know you’re still in there, she whispers, raising one

              finger. Poke a hole through the heavy curtains, she


mouths—you’ll see they are not even real.

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Nick Flynn. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2015 by Nick Flynn. Used with permission of the author.

Nick Flynn

Nick Flynn

Born in 1960, Nick Flynn is the author of the poetry collections My Feelings (Graywolf Press, 2015), The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands (Graywolf Press, 2011), Blind Huber (Graywolf Press, 2002), and Some Ether (Graywolf Press, 2000), which was the recipient of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award.

by this poet

poem

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

poem
You know how it pretends 
to have a broken wing to 
lure predators away from its 
nest, how it staggers just out 
of reach . . . if, at this moment,
you’re feeling metaphorical, 
nest can be the whatever 
inside us that we think needs 
protection, the whatever that is 
small & hasn’t yet
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poem

 

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