Friday, 6 April 2012

Poet to be honored at Literary Festival

Poet to be honored at Literary Festival
April 6, 2012
By Katie Lovett
Features Editor

1Told by co-chairwoman Vicki Hendrickson one night last winter, Nicol says the announcement was met by surprise. "My first reaction was to run away," he admitted with a smile.

Of course, the shock was short-lived. As preparations unfold for the annual event, scheduled for April 27 and 28 in downtown Newburyport, Nicol is settling into his role.

"It's really an enormous honor," he said. "All those years you're writing and no one's reading ... This is the kind of breakthrough you're looking for."

An Amesbury native, Nicol began writing poetry in high school when a group of students started a literary magazine. When he was a senior at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire majoring in literature and theater writing, Nicol had his first poem published in The New England Review in 1978. "The Inheritance" was printed on the page next to a poem by the country's newly minted poet laureate.

As a college student, Nicol spent a summer studying with poet Allen Ginsberg at the Naropa Institute. "He told me I had the intelligence to be a poet," Nicol said. That praise left him feeling "anointed," he added with another smile. "I felt like I could really be a poet, because he told me I could."

During his career, Nicol, who now lives in Newbury, has authored hundreds of poems and compiled two books of his works. He is a member of the Powow River Poets. Joining the group and taking part in their intense workshops, where members critique each other's works, was "probably my biggest break as a poet," he said.

As part of his honoring at the Literary Festival, he worked with co-chairwomen Jennifer Entwistle and Hendrickson to determine a theme for this year's event. He asked them to steer this year's program toward his interest in the written word and music. Therefore, the theme is "The Lyrical Voice" and the two-day program will offer participants a chance to see a mix of authors, poets, songwriters and musical performances.

"It's quite different, it's a lot broader this year," Hendrickson said.

While Nicol will be honored during the festival's closing ceremony on Saturday, his duties include introducing former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky and jazz musicians Stan Strickland, John Lockwood and Rakalam Bob Moses before they perform at the Firehouse on Saturday at 4 p.m.

He will also perform a melopoeia with fellow poet Rhina Espaillat and musicians John Tavano and Ann Tucker at 7 p.m. Saturday, and moderate a panel discussion on Friday for WGBH radio personality and author Ron Della Chiesa, who is the voice of the Boston Symphony, and music critic for NPR Tim Riley, who recently published a biography on John Lennon.

The full slate of activities is expected to draw an enormous crowd of bibliophiles and literary fans. More than 70 writers of fiction and nonfiction will visit the city, ranging from Jeff Kinney, the author of the wildly popular children's book series, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," to Margot Livesey, author of "The Flight of Gemma Hardy."

The festival will kick off on Friday, April 27, with the opening ceremony at the Firehouse followed by the "Dinner with the Authors" and silent auction at Nicholson Hall on Harris Street in Newburyport. Funds from the evening benefit the festival.

Tickets for the dinner are now on sale for $50. They can be purchased online at the festival's website: or by sending a check, payable to the Newburyport Literary Association, to the Newburyport Literary Association, Box 268, Newburyport, MA 01950. Tickets will also be available at the door.

The festival is sponsored by the Institution for Savings and the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, as well as The Provident Bank, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Newburyport, Newbury, West Newbury, Amesbury and Merrimac Cultural Councils and the Newburyport Rotary Club.


What: 7th annual Newburyport Literary Festival

When: April 27 and 28

Where: Various venues throughout downtown Newburyport

How: Most of the events are free. For more information and to see the complete schedule, visit




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