Mitchell | Nieves

Mitchell | Nieves
May 31, 2024 Mitchell Nancy

Our mutual friend, the late and beloved poet Lee Sharkey, urged me to contact John A. Nieves when he moved to my hometown to teach Creative Writing at Salisbury University. Before we met for coffee, I read his first book, the marvelously original Curio, and after hours of conversation the following week, I was dazzled.  A consummate craftsman and poet, John’s powers are evident in “Ars Poetica Interrupted by Nocturne interrupted by Ars Poetica” which meticulously tracks the dogged struggle to near exhaustion to express the ineffable longing for an absent beloved.


As the poem turns from line to line and trapezes from tercet to tercet on arresting line breaks “…old razors/of light unseaming the blinds.”  it incorporates the characteristics of both the Nocturne and Ars Poetica genres and in the process creates a hybrid poem that both “means” and “is.”


The poem’s title straightforwardly announces the trajectory of the poem which opens with the quizzical “It’s odd how the pen fails me when I try to say/I miss you and mean it…” We learn the cause of this malfunction is the light “unseaming the blinds” falling on the pen is that dusk, the enchanted hour between “dog and wolf’ and prelude to the Nocturne in which boundaries between the tangible and imagined dissolve and in which the utility of the pen disintegrates. The speaker, armed with the incantatory anaphora “holding up” and the support of the tangible objects of table, floor, and computer, holds off the disintegration of his purpose—and self— and holds on as long as is possible even for a Super Poet.


John Nieves


Ars Poetica Interrupted by Nocturne Interrupted by Ars Poetica


It’s odd how the pen fails me when I try to say
I miss you and mean it in the old razors
of light unseaming the blinds. The pen shivers


as I press it to the page, folds itself into dust
motes and evening time, falling, as it does, into the sun-
set. And I am here still. The paper before me,


one firm hole punched where I meant a letter
to begin. Through it, I see the table holding up
like it promised it would, its glass just smudged


enough for me to understand it. Below it, the floor
is also holding up. And then I have abandoned
the pen-like shadow and let my fingers peck the letters,


let the pixels say. And my legs are holding up
the keyboard. And the light is holding this message
in the light. And it is graying. It is barely holding


I, too, have slouched now. This is the spot you would

usually say, how’s it coming? or how’s it going? or some
other encouraging interrogative. But without


your throat, your voice is barely holding up. It is
in my fingertips, in these keys that are doing everything
they can to say I miss you and mean it loud enough.



John A. Nieves has poems forthcoming or recently published in journals such as: Hopkins Review, Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, 32 Poems and Southern Review. A 2024 Pushcart Prize winner, he also won the Indiana Review Poetry Contest and his first book, Curio, won the Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award Judge’s Prize. He is associate professor of English at Salisbury University and an editor of The Shore Poetry.




Nancy Mitchell


Still Life


all I have
a handful
of white
petals fallen
from the blue
vase     a
handful of
all I have

Nancy Mitchell is a 2012 Pushcart Prize winner and the author of The Near Surround, Grief Hut and the The Out-of- Body Shop. She teaches at Salisbury University in Maryland and serves as Associate Editor of Special Features for Plume. She is the Poet Laureate of the City of Salisbury, Maryland.