Overland Emerging Poets Series: Stephen Nichols

2011 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets commended poet: Stephen Nichols

Stephen Nichols is a Melbourne-based playwright and poet. In 2006 he had a seminal moment and decided he wanted be professional writer. Since then he has had a dozen or so plays produced and has written lots of poetry and short stories. He has a diploma of Professional Writing & Editing, and has recently started his Masters in Writing and Literature.



 While I wait for my beard to grow
I tie hare’s-ear nymphs with brass bead-heads
that imitate the emergent mayfly and caddis.

Every morning my wife stands next to me,
she doesn’t speak, she doesn’t understand.
I am an irritation like the midges that bite her legs.

My beard has turned to ivy; it hides a nest
of yellow tail finch eggs that if discovered
she will eat for breakfast.

Water laps at my chin, smelt nibble at my bark,
I have become a hollow tree who will soon disappear
under the men in fishing boats.

Through the meniscus I see the shadow of a mayfly
drying its new wings in the evening sun.
Gasping for air, I swim towards the sky.


Who are you reading now and why do they turn you on?

At the moment I am reading the Collected Works of Roger McGough (Penguin, 2004). Roger is my main man, my go-to-guy, when it comes to poetry. When I started out writing poetry I thought my task was to make both the reader and I as depressed as possible. I quickly learnt that this was not a bandwagon I wanted to ride. Instead I sought out poets that made me feel good about myself and the world around me. Roger is one of those poets. I could read Mafia Cats and Goodbat Nightman a million times and they would still leave a grin on my face.

How often do you write? Do you have a writing practice?

Not often enough. When I write I need to get away from life’s distraction and excuses. More often than not I will go to the Latrobe Reading Room at the Victorian State Library. This writing-space makes me feel smarter and I love the resonance. All the chairs squeak and there is always someone coughing. I actually like noise when I write – I can’t stand the sound of silence.
I’m an excellent procrastinator – although I call it thinking. There is no point sitting down to write if you have nothing to say. This is not a lie if you believe it.

When you think of Australian poetry, do you see an elephant in the room? If so, what is it?

I never think of Australian poetry. I read who I like regardless of where they come from. I am no more inclined to buy a book just because it was written by an Australian author. Having said that, I do love Australian poets like Cate Kennedy and Kristin Henry.


Peter Minter

Peter Minter is a leading Australian poet and writer on poetry and poetics, and Overland’s outgoing poetry editor.

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