Brief Accident of Light

Rhina and I are thrilled to announce that Kelsay Books has published Brief Accident of Light !

Brief Accident of Light is a collection of twenty poems, ten by Rhina P. Espaillat and ten by Alfred Nicol. The poems were written for an arts collaboration initiated by Newburyport Chamber Music Festival Director David Yang. Mr. Yang, a distinguished violist and composer, made a list of emblematic locations in and around the city of Newburyport, and assigned to each location a specific time of day or night. He first commissioned composer Robert Bradshaw to write a new piece for string quartet drawing its inpiration from those locations. Mr. Yang then invited Espaillat and Nicol to visit each spot at the specified time and to give voice to their experiences in a series of poems. Because the poets chose to make their visits together, most of the poems gathered here are paired —a reader will hear two voices emanating from each place, as when two birds perch in the same tree.

The two poets found themselves a little taken aback by the way these poems seemed to write themselves. One can only surmise that the spirits of City Hall and Oak Hill Cemetery really had something they needed to express, and were only waiting for an opportunity! A poet can get carried away when that kind of thing happens. You’ll see that there are four unpaired poems in this collection—“Waking Up,” “Fly-By: The Newburyport Art Association,” “The Closing Year,” and “Fog at Night”—each resulting from one or the other poet writing from a place not mentioned on the original list.

In keeping with the collaborative nature of this project, Kate Sullivan was invited to illustrate the collection with images of the sites mentioned in the poems. She too got caught up in the spirit of Mr. Yang’s vision, and contributed the celebratory ink-wash sketches the reader will happen upon, turning these pages.

Order Brief Accident of Light directly from Kelsay Books.

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The Catholic child’s imagination

Here is the blurb I wrote for Kathleen Rice’s memoir, Households, now available at This is her second book; the first, also self-published, sold over 139,000 copies!

“This delightful book reminds me of something the poet A. E. Stallings said: ‘All grown-up reading is trying to get back into the secret garden of childhood reading.’ Whoever opens to the first pages of House Holds will find a short-cut to that secret garden. The story titles are an entertainment in themselves. The epigraph from Barbara Kingsolver is perfect. The drawings are terrific (What a concept in this day and age, an illustrated book for adults!). Best of all is the voice of the storyteller, as mischievous and affectionate as the young girl whose stories she tells. Of all the memorable characters we’re introduced to in these first-person narratives, the I of the narrator is my favorite, a fully-realized human being, totally alive— physically, mentally, and even spiritually. I don’t know of anyone who captures the Catholic child’s imagination as well as Kathleen Rice does.”


Sunday, August 18 is a Big Day

David Yang, Director of the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival, has commissioned composer Robert Bradshaw to write a string quartet channeling the energy and spirit of eight locations in the town of Newburyport, and has asked Rhina Espaillat and me to write poems that draw their inspiration from those eight places. The three of us will present our work at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 7 PM, Sunday, Aug. 18. Click here!