Part of the crowd at the Big Blue MarbleNick Virgilio's "lily" poem with a digital haige painting by Rick BlackA standing-room-only crowd of about 40 people turned out for our recent screening of the Sean Dougherty film, remembering Nick Virgilio at the Big Blue Marble bookstore in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia. The audience, many of whom are members of the local Mad Poets Society branch, started trickling in around 7 p.m. from the Philly/NJ metropolitan area.

After Rick Black, poet and Turtle Light Press publisher, gave a brief introduction of Virgilio as well as a definition of haiku for those unfamiliar with the form, the audience was captivated by the documentary in which one hears Nick’s own voice talking about his work as well as others such as NPR’s Scott Simon, Cor van den Heuvel, Father Michael Doyle of Sacred Heart Church, Nick Virgilio Haiku Association President Henry Brann, Kathleen O’Toole, Alan Pizzarelli and others.

Rick Black reading from the new Nick Virgilio book at Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Philadelphia, PAThe film, which runs about 30 minutes, recounts Virgilio’s life and dedication to the craft of haiku as well as the way in which he used the form to help him deal with the death of his youngest brother, Larry, who was killed in the Vietnam War.

“A memorable evening for everyone,” said Mike Cohen, a poet who helped to organize the evening. “It was serenity and excitement at once – a rare treat. People seemed very receptive to haiku, and the more they saw what magic could be done with this seemingly simple form, the more they were drawn in.”

After the screening, Rick moderated a discussion about how Virgilio managed to pack so much into his haiku, thereby evoking deep emotions that often elude poets, regardless of the form that they’re using. A few folks who knew Nick attended the evening, including Henry Brann, Rocky Wilson, Mary Heron and others.Nick Virgilio screening at Big Blue Marble books

“What a fine evening,” said Peter Krok, editor of the Schuylkill Valley Journal & Humanities Director of Manayunk Roxborough Art Center.

After the discussion, a copy of the new Turtle Light Press book, Nick Virgilio: A Life in Haiku, was passed around and folks picked out a favorite poem at random, both new and old favorites alike:



barefooted lovers . . .
pulling the boat ashore —
leaving the moon afloat

a blind musician
extending an old tin cup
collects a snowflake

deep in rank grass,
through a bullet-riddled helmet:
an unknown flower

shadowing hookers
after dark:
the cross in the park

out of the water . . .
out of itself

my palsied mother,
pressing my forehead on hers
this Ash Wednesday

on the manuscript
the shadow of a butterfly
finishes the poem

If anyone didn’t get a copy at the evening program, Big Blue Marble has some of the new Virgilio books for sale.

Upcoming Events

March 23 – Rick Black will be reading from his own haiku collection, Peace and War: A Collection of Haiku From Israel, some of his own longer poems and his translations from the Hebrew of Yehuda Amichai’s work at Panoply Books in Lambertville, N.J. The reading will start at 6 p.m. on Saturday; please check the store’s website for directions, etc.

April 18 – A screening of remembering Nick Virgilio will be held at the Highland Park Public library in Highland Park, N.J., as well as an exhibition of haiga featuring Nick’s poems and Rick Black’s digital art of Camden, N.J., and Washington, D.C. For more information, please click on this link at the Highland Park library.

Latest comments about Nick Virgilio: A Life in Haiku:

“A beautiful introduction to Nick — both his life and his work. To paraphrase Whitman, who touches this book touches the man.”  X.J. Kennedy, former editor of The Paris Review and author of numerous poetry collections

“The true meaning of a book’s greatness is if it can move you to tears or inspire you to write. This book did both.” Alan Catlin


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