James Hayes Nichols at the Goat Farm Poetry Reading 2-13-12

James Hayes Nichols (click to enlarge)

James Hayes Nichols leads a many-faceted life: Poet and writer, wine consultant, musician, cook, Civil War buff, voracious reader, voracious listener, EpicWalker. All these describe his life, yet that life is more than a list of descriptive words and phrases.

His real life is internal and cannot be captured by labels put on his day-to-day activities. Perhaps it may be summed up as “thinker.” Or “puzzler.” Or “one mystified by life’s enormity.” Or all of these and none of them.

Nichols was born in Columbus, Georgia and moved with his family to Duluth, Georgia (a suburb of Atlanta) when he was 13. He was first a music major at Georgia State University, then changed to English when he found formal music study too stultifying. He now lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, Candace McCullough Nichols.

Nichols’ writings span the range of formal poems, to verse libre, to prose poems, to snapshots in prose of moments frozen in time. Running like a brightly colored thread through all of them is his keen observation of events and their meaning (or meaninglessness), insight into the thoughts and reactions of all the people present, and the uncanny ability to present a scene from several viewpoints simultaneously.

Impatient with the masks and manners people create to confront the outside world, Nichols demands authenticity both in others and in himself. This attitude is reflected in almost every piece he writes – sometimes approvingly, sometimes damning. He is particularly intense in his commentary on how humans have made a world they find they cannot live in, an emotional atmosphere in which they choke, a round hole in which no pegs quite fit.

Nichols is not pretentious enough to say it himself, but I believe he is a man to watch. His writings exude a raw honesty and penetration seldom found among today’s MFA-shackled poets.

– Mike Nichols