menu Arc Poetry Magazine

Topic: Barbara Nickel

Sandy Shreve on Barbara Nickel's "Busking"

(How Poems Work, September 2003)
Years ago, I read that Canadian poet Alden Nowlan said poems are ‘little epiphanies–everyone has them, but poets write them down.’ His comment comes to mind when I read Barbara Nickel’s work–especially her sonnets.
In “Busking,” a violinist has taken her music from the stage to the streets. Nickel enlivens a familiar market scene with language so vivid it awakens all our senses and leaves them tingling long after our eyes leave the page. The ‘little epiphany’ here is something we all know–that music, indeed all art, is food for the soul. Nickel ‘makes it new’ in the spirit of Ezra Pound’s dictum when he urged poets to write in free verse, but she does so through one of our oldest received forms, the English sonnet. …