Local graphic journalist, cartoonist, poet, and artist Nhattaleah “Nhatt” Nichols wears many hats, with her latest foray into the creative space as an author. Her most …
Local graphic journalist, cartoonist, poet, and artist Nhattaleah “Nhatt” Nichols wears many hats, with her latest foray into the creative space as an author. Her most recent creative project delves into the relationship between humans and the environment, and a future without people at all.
“This Party of the Soft Things” — an 80-page poetry book adorned by 50 graphite drawings amplifying and visualizing the composition — is Nichols’ finished product after around a year of work.
Rather than writing separate poems to amalgamate into the book, Nichols chose a conceptual style. The work is one poem in its entirety, but flows through the present and future throughout.
“I did something kind of unusual with this poem,” Nichols said. “It’s gonna be really incredible.”
Within the poem, Nichols hones in on the creatures of the planet, from birds to bison. A page from her book reads:
“Mosquitoes will annex their kingdom
their men pollinating a virgin world of flowers
from the megaplexes of truck tires
a buzzing sunday justice.”
Much of Nichols’ inspiration for the book came from being in nature and the introspection that came from it.
“It’s one poem and it follows a contemplative walk mostly around the Pacific Northwest and Port Townsend,” she said.
Additional inspiration for Nichols came from her adoration of the book “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman. The novel discusses how the world would change if humanity were to suddenly disappear, and how the flora and fauna of Earth would recover.
“I researched from that book,” Nichols said.
It was really interesting to see how much the world would change if humans were no longer allowed to be a part of it, she said.
Other authors — including Annie Dillard and David James Duncan — left an impression on her, but perhaps one of the bigger influences to Nichols’ nature-centered poetry approach was her upbringing.
“I was raised in a survivalist community … on a mountaintop in eastern Washington,” she said.
Growing up in a society away from the hustle-and-bustle of modern life, Nichols developed with an acute understanding of the environment. She learned to observe and comprehend nature through a rare and independent perspective as a permanent outsider.
The survivalist group taught Nichols “to find the hope and beauty” of the life around her.
“They wanted to be self-sufficient the best they possibly could,” she said of the community.
Beyond that, “This Party of the Soft Things” translates her introspection into poetry for all to appreciate.
Another part of Nichols’ poetic journey from free-writing notes to a finalized book came from quite an unlikely source.
After purchasing a comic-poem book made in collaboration between minicomic creator John Porcellino and poet Stefan Lorenzutti, Nichols was intrigued by the book and its Polish publisher, Bored Wolves.
“I thought it was so beautiful,” she said of the comic-poem creation, praising its “gloriously thick paper.”
By coincidence, or perhaps by fate, she stumbled across Bored Wolves poet and publisher Lorenzutti on the popular social media app Instagram.
Nichols was enthralled by the delightful aesthetic and style of the publications coming from Bored Wolves, and wanted to collaborate with the company based out of a cabin in the highlands of Poland.
“I looked Stefan up on Instagram and we became buddies,” she said. “I wanted to find something that I could pitch to him that was really cool.”
The two eventually decided to work together with Nichols’ idea of creating a poetry book.
A year later, “This Party of the Soft Things” is set to be published within weeks.
“This book is the product of a supremely rewarding collaborative experience spanning seasons. Although Nhatt really made a lot of things easy for us,” said Stefan Lorenzutti, publisher for Bored Wolves, in an email with The Leader. “A lot of folks appreciate Nhatt’s work, her practice as a graphic journalist and comics artist. But maybe they don’t realize what a brilliant, idiosyncratic, and hypnotic poet she is.”
Although the two are more than 5,000 miles away from each other and many time zones apart, they’ve found a way to collaborate on a daily basis.
“Considering we were working across something like eight time zones, this process was remarkably seamless,” Lorenzutti said. “I feel like we’ve been sharing this co-working space in the ether, complete with creative camaraderie. Like we found a portal connecting the forests surrounding our cabin studios.”
The correspondence between the two has worked well, as Nichols wakes up early in the morning, which equates to afternoon time for Lorenzutti in Poland.
“Stefan and I have been talking almost every day with the book,” she said.
Nichols just surpassed her goal to raise $3,000 to support the book on Kickstarter — a website used to fund projects — over the weekend.
“I’m very overwhelmed by the support. I’m not comfortable asking for help, and the response I’ve received from friends and strangers has felt immense,” Nichols said of reaching her fundraising goal.
Once they get a chance to read the new book, Nichols wants readers to gain a deeper understanding of nature and the duration of time when they turn to the final page of her 80-page poem.
“There’s just a sense of the longevity of time; there’s so much beauty and appreciation,” she said. “It’s our responsibility to be more environmentally friendly.”
Lorenzutti agreed, but also said the book is much more.
“Nhatt found a way to balance despair and solace. Her forecast is unflinching: Humans pushed the planet too far. Now nature is pushing back and it’s going to win. The planet will outlast us. And yet there’s this radical hope throughout the book: that in savoring ephemeral sensory experiences while we’re still here, especially those connected to nature, an individual’s gift of consciousness is not wasted,” he said.
To preorder a copy of “This Party of the Soft Things,” learn more about the book, or donate to the project, visit www.thesoftthings.com.
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