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Nick Flynn

1960–

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 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)

By This Poet

11

Father Outside


A black river flows down the center
of each page

& on either side the banks
are wrapped in snow. My father is ink falling

in tiny blossoms, a bottle
wrapped in a paperbag. I want to believe
that if I get the story right

we will rise, newly formed,

that I will stand over him again
as he sleeps outside under the church halogen
only this time I will know

what to say. It is night &
it's snowing & starlings
fill the trees above us, so many it seems

the leaves sing. I can't see them
until they rise together at some hidden signal

& hold the shape of the tree for a moment
before scattering. I wait for his breath
to lift his blanket

so I know he's alive, letting the story settle

into the shape of this city. Three girls in the park
begin to sing something holy, a song
with a lost room inside it

as their prayerbook comes unglued

& scatters. I'll bend
each finger back, until the bottle

falls, until the bone snaps, save him

by destroying his hands. With the thaw
the river will rise & he will be forced
to higher ground. No one

will have to tell him. From my roof I can see
the East River, it looks blackened with oil

but it's only the light. Even now
my father is asleep somewhere. If I followed

the river north I could still reach him.

Swarm

When you see us swarm — rustle of

wingbeat, collapsed air — your mind
tries to make us one, a common

intelligence, a single spirit un-
tethered. You imagine us merely
searching out the next

vessel, anything

that could contain us, as if the hive
were just another jar. You try

to hold the ending, this
unspooling, make it either

zero or many, lack

or flurry. I was born,
you begin, & already each word
makes you smaller. Look at this field —

Cosmos. Lungwort. Utter each
& break

into a thousand versions of yourself.

You can't tell your stories fast enough.
The answer is not one, but also

not two.