Norman Nicholson has been described as the greatest Lake District
poet since Wordsworth. In his twenties he was a protege of T.S. Eliot
and won major awards alongside Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney, who referred
to him as ‘a fathering voice’.
He was born in the small industrial town of Millom and lived there – in the house where he was born – until he died. Norman’s formal education was interrupted by tuberculosis at the age of 16 and he spent almost two years in a sanatorium before returning home, where he lived as an invalid in an attic room at the top of the house, reading, studying and writing. Preoccupations with his health and dependence on his parents made it difficult for him to form relationships with women. Norman was engaged to Enrica Garnier for more than ten years. A relationship with Kathleen Raine produced some of his most lyrical poetry. He was over forty when he met English teacher Yvonne Gardner and their marriage gave him security and happiness.
Norman produced seven collections of poetry, a mass of literary journalism, biography, fiction and criticism as well as best-selling books on the landscape of the Lake District. He was an evangelist for provincialism, defending his life-choices against growing metro-centrism. Isolated and eccentric, he had bitter exchanges with Philip Larkin and George MacBeth. ‘Green before the word was coined’ he was a fervent environmentalist, not afraid to speak out against the dangers of nuclear power and environmental destruction, and his work has great contemporary relevance.
A unique, gentle spirit with a quirky sense of humour – Norman Nicholson’s writings are among the literary treasures of the Lake District.
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