Louise Townsend Nicholl

Louise Townsend Nicholl was born in 1890 to Elizabeth Nicholl and Avis Townsend Nicholl and raised in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. She lived in northern New Jersey for much of her life. Nicholl attended Smith College, where Adelaide Crapsey was one of her instructors. In 1913, Nicholl published poems in The Smith College Monthly, a literary journal edited by the senior class. 

Townsend published six volumes of poetry: The Blood That Is Language (John Day Company, 1967); The World’s One Clock (St. Martin’s Press, 1959); Collected Poems (E. P. Dutton, 1953); Life Is the Flesh (E. P. Dutton, 1947); Dawn in Snow (E. P. Dutton, 1941); and Water and Light (E. P. Dutton, 1939). Throughout her career, Nicholl regularly published poems in Poetry magazine and The American Scholar. Her work was anthologized in Fifty Years of American Poetry: Over 200 Important Works by America’s Modern Masters (H. N. Abrams, 1984), an anniversary volume released by the Academy of American Poets and introduced by Robert Penn Warren. She published one novel, The Blossom-Print, in 1938 (E. P. Dutton). 

In 1954, Nicholl became the first woman and eighth poet to receive the Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets.

Distinguished professor emeritus of English Fred Kaplan has described Nicholl as “[m]ore traditional than Wallace Stevens or Marianne Moore [with] a fine ear and a spare precision of language that expressed feeling by understatement. Her imagination never soared. But its closeness to the concrete and the natural anchored its metaphysical resonances in the things of this world. Her clear syntax and sharp particularity made her eminently readable, both sophisticated and accessible.” 

Nicholl started her career at the New York Evening Post, then joined Contemporary Verse as an associate editor. She then spent many years serving as poetry editor at E. P. Dutton. Nicholl was active with the Poetry Society of America and served on the board of The Measure, a monthly poetry journal. 

Louise Townsend Nicholl died in Plainfield, New Jersey, on November 10, 1981.