2018-19 Write Thing Reading Series Begins With Poet Perry Nicholas on October 4

Perry S. Nicholas, a local poet and educator who has published eight books of original poetry, is the first speaker of Medaille’s 2018-19 Write Thing Reading Series. The event will take place on the fourth floor of the Main Building at 7 p.m. on October 4. Sponsored by Medaille’s English department, all Write Thing events are free and open to the public.

Here, Nicholas speaks about his background, inspiration and writing process, and he offers advice to those interested in pursuing a career in writing.


What is your academic background?

I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English from the University at Buffalo. I studied to be an English teacher. I got side-tracked for many years but returned to teaching and writing about 15 years ago. In addition to my poetry writing, I am now an English professor at SUNY Erie Community College. 


What serves as inspiration for your writing?

My poetry is inspired by my real-life experiences, but once they are altered on the page, they become fiction. It is my goal to reach people with similar experiences. If someone hears my poetry, is moved and identifies with my writing, that’s what I strive for. The content needs to be universal.


Is your writing exclusive to poetry? If so, what makes this type of writing stand out for you?

I write mostly poetry, though I have written several essays and book reviews recently. I love the economy of language and beauty of it when the imagery, tone and word choice work together in a poem. Because I teach creative writing at SUNY Erie, I have written many pieces along with my students. In short, I love how poetry can help us rise above the mundane through such a limited amount of words on the page.


What advice would you give to students or others who are interested in starting a career in writing?

There is very little money in poetry unless you are successful enough to win a major prize. I am lucky to have a teaching career that encompasses my writing interests. My advice is to write for your own passion of language, self-esteem, expression and therapy. Write if you can’t get through the day without expressing your thoughts and conflicts. After all, expression is one of the best ways to get through our complex lives. 


What do you enjoy about reading in public, and what do you tell your own students who may have apprehension about doing this?

I teach both creative writing and public speaking, so I try to encourage my students to be prepared when they speak and to take every opportunity to share their work with an audience. You don’t know how a poem flows until you hear it hit the air. I love reading my poetry and making a connection with my audience when it comes seeing the reaction on their faces, especially students and non-poets. Those are the rare moments when I am not self-conscious or distracted by the world, even though I’m sharing very personal stories. It’s a hard feeling to describe when I get lost in my poetry.


Can you tell us what kind of work(s) you plan to read at the Write Thing event?

My plan right now is to read poems spanning the years 2013-2018.  I recently recorded a CD of these poems, so I will pick my favorites and perhaps some others from these recent years. Most of them were inspired by family, personal relationships and current events. I may even sing a song.


For more info or to read examples of his work, visit perrynicholas.com.

Interview by Sara K. Smith (intern from the Medaille English department).

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