Poet Jay Baron Nicorvo tackles the tough subject of deadbeat dads
Severe winter weather prevented poet Jay Baron Nicorvo from reading at WMU as scheduled in late January. The reading was rescheduled for February 28 in the Bernhard Center. Nicorvo teaches writing at Western Michigan University.
He lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their 2-year-old son. For years the young poet was convinced he would be a bad father, taking after his own. His collection of poems titled Deadbeat begins by describing a scene very similar to the last time he saw his dad.
“The last time I saw my father was at a child support hearing. He came in looking all but homeless, to get a reduction in child support and alimony. And it worked. And, as a result, my brothers and I grew up pretty poor. So, in some ways writing that scene and that poem was a sort of exorcism for me. It was very affecting, hugely so, and overwhelming for a large portion of my life. But, part of the thing that I do in writing poems, is try to visit really charged, really emotional scenes, and sometimes to spin them, to fictionalize them, or take poetic license. Other times the details are there, it’s just finding the crucial ones, the important ones, the lasting ones that will move a reader like I’m moved as I write the poem.”
Nicorvo turned to writing as a young man after his life went from bad to worse. He hopes his work can speak for others with similar troubles.
“So,” he says, “I think there is a political side to my writing too. I’m trying to find a way to give voice to the downtrodden, in hopes that some 18-year-old kid out there who doesn’t know what he’s doing or what he should do with his life, will pick up a poem and read it and maybe find a calling in there, a way to make himself useful, because that’s what happened to me.”
For most of Nicorvo’s life he has seen himself as the son of a deadbeat dad. Becoming a dad himself over 2 ½ years ago has changed his focus.
“I was really scared for a while. I thought I was going to become a deadbeat dad. I thought that was my destiny. I didn’t have that model there, it was more an absence. The first poem is largely about my father but a lot of the poems are much more about me. The sort of young man that I was and maybe the grown man that I could have become, had I not been lucky, had I not had good mentors, good writing teachers, good father figures at university. So, a lot of this book is much more about me than my father, who I don’t really know.”
Jay Baron Nicorvo will read from his collection of poems titled Deadbeat February 28 at 8 p.m. in the Bernhard Center as part of WMU’s Gwen Frostic Reading Series.