This January marks the 100th anniversary of Norman Nicholson’s birth in Millom and BBC is marking the occasion with a half hour radio programme presented by fellow Cumbrian, Eric Robson, on Sunday 5th January. The Corporation’s press release describes him as “the unique and unjustly overlooked Cumbrian” and I guess a short radio documentary might help raise his profile a little – though calling the programme “Provincial Pleasures” is, I feel, damning the man with faint praise as “Provincial” was a phrase he fought against all his life.
Nicholson was championed by TS Eliot, Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney though he remains little known because he chose to stay in the little town of Millom than move south. On the western edges of the Lake District, in this desolate, post-industrial landscape, Nicholson wrote a lovely meditative poem about his craft and about his middle name (which was also his mother’s maiden name) “Cornthwaite”: “… I lop, / Chop and bill-hook at thickets and rankness of speech, / Straining to let light in, make space for a word, / To hack out once again my inherited thwaite / And sow my peck of poems, not much of a crop.”
This poem was first published in “Sea to the West”, 1984 and can be found in Collected Poems. pp.354
To learn more about him, you can visit the Norman Nicholson Society’s website. The link is here.
© The Trustees of the Estate of Norman Nicholson, by permission of David Higham Associates Limited