Q&A: Nick Courtright


Nick Courtright
is the author of Punchline, a National Poetry Award finalist and a book Boston Review editor Timothy Donnelly calls “nothing short of a knockout.” Nick’s work has appeared in journals such as The Southern Review, Massachusetts Review, Kenyon Review Online, The Iowa Review, and many others, and a chapbook, Elegy for the Builder’s Wife, is available from Blue Hour Press. He’s Interviews Editor of the Austinist, an arts and culture website based in Austin, Texas, where he teaches English, Humanities, and Philosophy, and lives with his wife, Michelle, and son, William.

Nick Courtright will be our featured poet at the Penniless Poets’ Open Mic this Friday, March 30th. But first, let’s get to know him.


First of all, who are you? What’s your story?

I’m Nick Courtright, an adjunct professor at St. Edward’s and Concordia Universities.  I’m also Interviews Editor for the Austinist, and I live in east Austin with my wife, Michelle, and son, Will—they are awesome.  That’s the brief version—the rest is full of accidents and things done on purpose.

Where can I find your work either online or in print?

Google knows the answer!  But I have poems available online at places like CultureMap Austin, Kenyon Review Online, Juked (warning: profanity-laden poem about the honey badger…), and Contrary.  As for print, my brand new book, Punchline, is now available on Amazon, and I also have a chapbook called Elegy for the Builder’s Wife.  If you want to spy on me creepily nickcourtright.com is a decent place to start.

When did you begin writing?

I was stricken with the writing problem at a young age—I clearly remember writing pages and pages of stories when I was in elementary school, and was always drawn to the weirdness of language.  Most of my early work was illustrated as well (poorly), and was rife with potty jokes.  As for poetry, I didn’t find that finer art until college.

What influences or inspires you? What books or poems have inspired you?

The human experience inspires me—we as a people have all these lives to live, but why?  Such strange thoughts have led me to be inspired by everything from quantum mechanics and cosmology to the Bible and Bhagavad Gita.  Books such as that, and anything that tackles the big issues of our life here on earth, inspire me.  But really, the most inspiring elements I see are just the little things that reveal themselves in those moments when I take the time to pause—pretty crazy we’re here on earth, right?

What is your favorite word?

Truth.  Just because it’s such a mess to untangle, if we can even hope to untangle it.

What is your least favorite word?

Fecund.  Because it means “fertile goodness,” but sounds like “crap.”  And that’s just confusing.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Any of them, but only for a while.  I do, though, often wonder what it would have been like to be an engineer, or a neurologist or something like that.  You know, a job that doesn’t involve grading papers?

What super hero power would you most like to have?

Haha, what a crazy thing to consider.  I’ve been sitting here trying to figure it out, but there are so many great options, and all with terrible costs!  How about this: I wouldn’t want immortality for myself, because that’s too intense, but what about the ability to turn back time for others, so as to give them life?  Surely there would be unforeseen consequences, but aren’t there always?

In what circumstances do you write? (Do you have a special desk? A regular table at Starbucks? Pen and Paper or Typing? Do you write daily, as the mood strikes you, or especially in November?)

I write when I must, and, when that strikes, wherever I may be.  I used to write prolifically and with a brutal routine, but now I just go with it when it needs to happen.  With luck, the next book will write itself.

What can we expect to hear from you at the 2nd Annual St. Edward’s University Literary Arts Festival?

Mostly stuff from Punchline.  And that means a bunch of crazy poems about dinosaurs, existence, Einstein, destiny, brain science, monks, morality, metaphysics…you know, the obvious.

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