Poet Honored during First ‘Readings at Ramapo’

On Monday, Ramapo students, alumni and faculty attended a poetry reading by Nick Norwood in the Salameno Spiritual Center at 6 p.m. This was the first writer for the spring semester's "Readings at Ramapo" series.

James Hoch, associate professor of English and convener of the creative writing program, gave an introduction prior to Norwood's reading.

"Nick is the author of three books of poems," Hoch said. "It's humorous, it's fun, it's dark and it's beautiful. His work is largely unpretentious, a kind of play in darkened light."

Norwood was born in Arkansas and attended college in Texas. He is currently a literature and writing professor at Columbus State University in Georgia and has won several awards for his writing, including the 15th annual Hollis Summers Prize in Poetry and the International Merit Award from "Atlanta Review."

"I heard of him because I'm taking the capstone course. 'Readings at Ramapo' seems to show diversity [with the writers they bring to campus]," senior Diana Atalla said.

Norwood began the reading with a poem entitled "More Reading Habits," which he dedicated to Hoch. Throughout the reading, he gave introductions and clarified information in his poetry.

"In the first book, I was in this phase where I didn't want to write about myself," Norwood said. "I have this poem ["Report"] that's also, it's so astonishing that I feel like I have to tell you it's true."

The poems he read, including "Moonwalk," "My First Record" and "Early Hunting Trip" focused on his personal life, as well as historical events that took place while he was growing up, such as the first moon landing and the Civil Rights Movement.

"The reading was really good. I think the Arkansas/Texas accent added to it," recent Ramapo graduate Imani Hardaway said. "Reading it out loud in your own voice is always different than hearing the poet."

After Norwood's reading, Hoch paid tribute to Jake Adam York, a poet who was scheduled to give a reading but passed away from a stroke in December at the age of 40.

"He wrote largely, or at least most profoundly, of Civil Rights workers.  He was one of the few people willing to touch the subject of racism overtly," Hoch said. "He was unapologetic of his views and his own self-condemnation. [He was] lauded by many African American poets for being able to own his racism."

Poet Laura McCullough, Norwood and Hoch read three poems, "Grace," "For Reverend James and "Vigil," respectively.

"I've never heard of him before, but the poet was very funny and the tribute at the end was very touching," sophomore Mary DiPasquale said.

For more information about the "Reading at Ramapo" series, contact Professor Hoch or "like" the creative writing program's Facebook page.