About 150 people gathered together the last weekend of National Poetry Month for two book launches in Camden, N.J., to celebrate the life and poetry of Nick Virgilio. To date, many of the major media outlets in the Philadelphia region have done stories on Virgilio and our new book, Nick Virgilio: A Life in Haiku.


WIP – Philadelphia (610AM  and 94.1FM) – The Peter Solomon Public Affairs Show – Interview with Rick Black on the new Virgilio book


WHYY – NPR public radio story – Philadelphia (90.9FM)


The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Philadelphia City Paper

Rutgers Today, an in-house online publication that reaches 30,000 university faculty, staff and students

Moreover, Inside Jersey, a mass circulation magazine in New Jersey, has slated a Virgilio feature for June. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get some national press coverage, too. If you haven’t checked it out yet, the Mann Library’s Daily Haiku is featuring a poem of Nick Virgilio each day for the entire month of May.

Nick Virgilio book launch at Rutgers-CamdenFestivities began on Friday, April 27th, at the Paul Robeson Library of Rutgers University in Camden, N.J., where a luncheon program was held to mark the opening of a new exhibition, “American Haiku Masters” and the publication of the new book, Nick Virgilio: A Life in Haiku. Elizabeth Moser, who just completed a master’s thesis on Virgilio, curated the exhibition, which highlights the book art and haiku collection of Pamela Miller Ness as well as original manuscripts of Virgilio, photos, and a multi-media show of haiku books and poems.

“I was first drawn to haiku and its depth of feeling because of Nick Virgilio and his poems about the death of his brother, Larry, in Vietnam,” said Rick Black, publisher of Turtle Light Press, which just released the new volume to coincide with National Poetry Month. “Essentially, Nick was my teacher, even though I never met him, and when I found out that there were 100s if not 1,000s of unpublished haiku,  I was slightly incredulous.”

“‘You must be kidding me?'” I said to myself. “One of the best poets that this country has ever produced and his stuff has gone unpublished for more than 20 years?”Part of the audience at the Rutgers book launch

Other speakers included Dean Kriste Lindenmeyer, English Department Chair Dr. Geoff Sill, Curator Elizabeth Moser, Editor Raffael de Gruttola, and Nick Virgilio Haiku Association President Henry Brann.

On Sunday, April 29th, a community reading of the new Virgilio book was held at Sacred Heart Church with about 75 people. A stage was decorated with a large photo of Nick and, along with some flowers, a large spread of wine and cheese was put out for folks in the back of the hall. Father Michael Doyle, the pastor of the church and a good friend of Nick’s, read part of his tribute to Nick that is in the new book:

“A daily routine for Nick was boarding the bus to the Reading Terminal in Philadelphia. There, after he smelled the fruit and the fish, the breads and the bacon, he talked to people. Sometimes he’d start a conversation with, “Get a load a this!” as he tried out a haiku on a startled man or woman on a lunch break.”

Street mural with one of Nick's poems

Street mural with one of Nick's poems

One of the most moving moments was a reading by Matt Mezzacappa, who played Larry Virgilio in the play, Nick of Time…Nick of Time. He read what are informally known as “The Larry Poems,” a series of haiku about the death of Nick’s youngest brother Larry in Vietnam. Here are a few of them:

my little brother
with a spider in his hand:
a gift for mother

flag-covered coffin:
the shadow of the bugler
slips into the grave

atop the town flagpole,
a gob of bubblegum
holds my dead brother’s dime

Another of the most magical times was when members of the audience picked out a poem from a basket that was circulated around and came up to read, each one reciting another one of Nick’s poems. Some were old favorites, others were new ones that had never been heard before. Each person read in their own tone and timbre, young and old, white and black. One after another, people stepped up to the stage to share  haiku that still reflect — some 23 years after Virgilio’s death — our times.

Here are a handful of pictures — more pix are posted on the Turtle Light Press Facebook page…enjoy!