Norman Nicholson


Norman Nicholson

Norman Cornthwaite Nicholson OBE, (8 January 1914 – 30 May 1987), was an English poet, known for his association with the Cumberland town of Millom. His poetry is noted for its local concerns, straightforwardness of language and inclusion of elements of common speech.

Contents

Life

Nicholson was born in 14 St George's Terrace, a Victorian terraced house and outfitter's shop in the small industrial town of Millom in Cumberland, on the edge of the Lake District. He lived in the same house for most of his life and moved from his home only when he needed treatment for pulmonary tuberculosis aged 16, being away for two years in a Hampshire sanatorium. He wore large and distinctive side whiskers which gave him a slightly eccentric air. His writing career stretched from the 1930s up until his death in 1987. He was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1977, and the OBE in 1981. His works include the typically titled Rock Face (1948) and the later Sea to the West (1981). He is chiefly known for his poetry but was the author of many works in other forms; novels, plays, essays, topography and criticism.

Work

Nicholson's work is characterised by the simplicity and directness of his language. He attempted to write in the vernacular of the common people in his native town. Much of his work concerned mining, quarrying and ironworks—the dominant industries in his area. Religion and faith were another aspect of his work. His poetry also abounds with direct quotations from everyday life, skilfully woven into the body of the poem. The opening of Old Man at a Cricket Match, is typical:

'It's mending worse,' he said, bending west his head ...

Nicholson is not generally associated with any of the poetic movements of the twentieth century. Rather, like Charles Causley, he seems to be considered more of an isolated figure, working on his poetry outside of the mainstream of poetic trends. Perhaps because of this, Nicholson's work has received relatively little critical attention. He is not without his admirers though. Seamus Heaney has said "Nicholson's diction and images realise the texture and pieties of a whole way of life…. A domestic world of bereavements and nostalgias, riddles and catch-phrases, is caught in poems that are half-humorous, half-melancholy written in a relaxed and colloquial style." Nicholson was the subject of a South Bank Show broadcast in the United Kingdom on 4 November 1984.

Publications (selected)

  • Man and Literature (1943)
  • Five Rivers (1944)
  • The Fire of the Lord (1944)
  • Old Man of the Mountains (1945)
  • The Green Shore (1947)
  • Prophesy to the Wind (1947)
  • Rock Face (1948)
  • H. G. Wells (1950)
  • William Cowper (1951)
  • The Pot Geranium (1954)
  • A Match for the Devil (1955)
  • The Lakers (1955)
  • Provincial Pleasures (1959)
  • Birth by Drowning (1960)
  • Portrait of the Lakes (1963)
  • A Local Habitation (1972)
  • Stitch and Stone (1975)
  • Wednesday Early Closing (1975)
  • Sea to the West (1981)
  • Collected Poems (ed. Neil Curry) (1994)
  • Off to Outer Space Tomorrow

Legacy

Millom Library and the John Rylands University Library, Manchester have bronze busts of Nicholson by Joan Palmer. A memorial stained glass window created by Christine Boyce can be found in St George's Church, Millom.

Archive

Nicholson's papers are in the John Rylands University Library, Manchester.[1]

Exhibition

Millom Heritage Museum And Visitor Centre houses information about Norman Nicholson, as well a drift mine exhibit.

Library

Nicholson's personal collection of published poetry was acquired by the John Rylands University Library, Manchester from his family.[2]

Residence

Norman Nicholson's home at 14 St George's Terrace has become a health food shop and café with a blue plaque commemorating Nicholson above the door.

Norman Nicholson Society

The Norman Nicholson Society was inaugurated in Millom, Cumbria on 31st March 2006 with the intention of celebrating and promoting the work of this distinguished writer as widely as possible. Melvyn Bragg is the Honorary President. The Society aims to be a focal point for appreciation and research and intends to encourage the publication of any Nicholson's works which are currently out of print. Talks and events are arranged throughout the year and a newsletter, Comet, is published and distributed free to members. Comet contains articles on Nicholson's life and work, information about events and original material from members. Contributors to Comet have included David Cooper, Neil Curry, U. A. Fanthorpe and Matt Simpson. Contributions relevant to Nicholson's life and work are invited by the editor, Antoinette Fawcett.

References

External links


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