INTERVIEW: Andrew S. Nicholson

Our newest staff member Rosie Vargas joined Andrew S. Nicholson in a deep discussion regarding his poetry collection that recently came out last year from The Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University.

Rosie joins our staff as a recent UNLV graduate after her poem “Follow” was published in our Animal Issue. This is her first interview as member of our staff.


Rosie Vargas in Conversation with Andrew S. Nicholson on A Lamp Brighter Than Foxfire

ROSIE

I had a lot of thoughts when diving into your book. Starting off, what’s your favorite poem in the book?

ANDREW

I can’t say that I have a single favorite. Among the poems that I do really like, I do really like A Miniature Jacob Wrestling on the Kitchen Floor. I also like poems like Onion. Aesop was a poem I found myself liking more and more. There are a variety of different ones.

ROSIE

The poems often explore different circumstances with fathers. What do you think a father is, and how do you think that definition threaded throughout your book?

ANDREW

That’s a good question. One of the things that prompted some of those poems [has been] the disparity between a lot of people’s experiences with their father, and my experience with a father. So many people I know have had fathers who were distant either physically and/or emotionally, or abusive. Where love or caretaking is at a remove. That seems to be a cultural notion of a father. In my case, my father has been one of the most caring people in my life. There is a kind of tenderness there. So, that kind of slippage between a cultural notion, or other people’s experience that I know, and my own was one place to start those poems.

We could also say in addition to that, if we’re going to connect it to kinds of uses of the father, and poems involving the Old Testament, that seems to be a continuation to a much more cultural notion of a father. The notion of a father in Genesis does seem to be that removed power.

ROSIE

That’s the other thing that struck me were the references to the Old Testament, especially in the first section. How much of your own experience or faith did you bring to that?

ANDREW

Three or four years ago I traveled to Italy, and saw art from a period of time where there isn’t an option about subject matter.  If you’re an artist, you’re going to be working for the church, you’re maybe going to do some portraits, but a lot of your major works are going to be about religious themes, and that cultural notion of taking a story, and telling it, and retelling it, and having it be in relationship with the debates that are currently happening in a culture, the kind of flexibility that that has really stood out to me.

In the terms of spiritually, that practice interests me in the way that it’s a retelling. In the way that the paintings of Renaissance artists aren’t just representing a story, but are recasting it. It’s the only story to tell in response to whatever is happening with the artist personally, and with the artist in society. Spirituality, it is not a calcified thing. The spiritual act being one of something that is alive in rediscovery.

ROSIE

Tenderness also comes across in the ways that the body is used or referred to. It’s a way of connecting the other people in the work. In what way did the body come into the work itself?

ANDREW

Just generally, I want the poems to be grounded in the existing world. One of my big models is Tomas Tranströmer whose poems are often are those quick perceptions of the world, give a strong sense of it, then moves towards something more luminous, and the body is a kind of ongoing extension of that.

ROSIE

What journey would you like to take your reader on?

ANDREW

I want to bring the reader into a mindset where that follows an act of imagining of the world [of the poem] around the reader. The kind of narrative, the arcs that exist are to bring that into that notion. It seems to me that what I think the book stands against is a notion that there is nothing beyond the realm of logic. The bit of narrative, the objects that exist there, the movement through geographies is in part to keep the reader in a space where there is an act of reverie always going on, an act of imagining that is born out of an act of tenderness.


Andrew S. Nicholson is an assistant professor-in-residence at UNLV where he received his Ph.D. as a Schaeffer Fellow in Poetry. He received his MFA from California College of the Arts. His first book of poetry, A Lamp Brighter Than Foxfire, was released this past November from The Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University. His poetry has appeared in magazines and journals including Colorado Review, Witness, Tarpaulin Sky and Eleven Eleven, and he has been an Artist-in-Residence at the Palazzo Rinaldi in Noepoli, Italy.

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