Back to Faculty

Miriam Nichols

Miriam Nichols

Associate Professor


Abbotsford campus, D205

Phone: 604-504-7441 ext. 4293

email Miriam


Born in Vancouver, Miriam Nichols was raised in Powell River, a small mill town on the west coast of B.C. She took her BA Hons and MA in English at Simon Fraser and a PhD at York University in Toronto, the latter on post-World War II literatures of Canada, the US, and the UK. Before coming to UFV in 1994, she taught at Medicine Hat College in Alberta, and at Simon Fraser.

She has published widely on Canadian and American poets with particular attention to the writings of Robin Blaser, a poet who participated in the Berkeley Renaissance of the 1940s and 50s.

Her main publications are Even on Sunday: Essays, Readings, and Archival Materials on the Poetry and Poetics of Robin Blaser (2002); editions of Blaser’s Collected Poems and Collected Essays (two volumes, 2006); Radical Affections: Essays on the Poetics of Outside (2010), a collection of her own essays on poetics; and The Astonishment Tapes (2015), an annotated edition of talks on poetry and autobiography which Blaser made in 1974.

Recent public talks include presentations at the School of Visual Arts in New York (see Miriam Nichols on vimeo); CUNY, New York; The Woodberry Room at Harvard; Poets’ House in New York (see website for video); Kent University, Canterbury, UK; University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK; UBC, Okanagan; and University of California, Berkeley. She was Writer-in-Residence for a week at the Gloucester Writers’ Center in Gloucester, MA in the summer of 2014.  She is currently working on a literary biography of Blaser.


PhD., English, York University (Toronto); Major field: Contemporary literature, American, Canadian, British; Minor field: English Renaissance

BA, Hons.; MA, English, Simon Fraser University

Teaching Philosophy

1. Objectives:

My objective as a teacher is to coach students in the acquisition of three literacies: basic reading and writing skills, discipline specific discourses, and socio-cultural awareness.

 2. Means:

A personal history:

Like many teachers, I began my career by drawing on the styles of those professors I had most enjoyed as a student. Robin Blaser, George Bowering, Roy Miki, Frank Davey and Barbara Godard were role models. In different ways, each of these scholars or poet-scholars was thoroughly engaged in a life focused on writing and thinking, and that was very exciting to me as a student. They were going somewhere, it seemed, and I wanted to go too. When I became a teacher myself, my first assumption was Aristotelian: ‘everyone wants to know,’ or more formally, “the act of learning is not only most pleasant to philosophers but, in a similar way, to other men as well . . . .” My second assumption was that I had better be going somewhere if I expected anyone to want to come along. In translating these assumptions to teaching strategies, I aim to empower students. I do this by trying to help them find and extend their own interests as broadly as possible and by modeling engagement with intellectual adventure.

 Present practices:

I approach the skills component of teaching English through increment and repetition. Critical reading and good written communication skills do not come about over night any more than skill, say, in basketball or piano playing.

My view of discipline specific literary criticism and theory is that such discourses are valuable tools in opening up literary texts and in discovering new ways to look at the world. I teach the various schools of literary criticism pragmatically, as modes of seeing, rather than dogmas.

In pursuit of the larger aim of my teaching practice--the education of students in social and cultural literacy--I use a comparative approach. I try to build courses where each work studied comments on the others. The point of this strategy is to encourage students to build a context for their studies through the comparison of works that differently address similar issues, thus to discover their own affinities among the multiple perspectives presented. 

3. Evaluation of effectiveness

Certainly the main measure of effectiveness is the degree to which students improve their critical reading and writing skills over time. I also look for increased self-confidence, initiative in carrying out assignments, and independence of thought.

4. The importance of teaching:

The broader goal of my teaching is the cultivation of social and aesthetic judgment. Hannah Arendt, my favorite theorist in political philosophy, suggests that judgment comes out of the ability to "visit" perspectives other than our own. Literature is an "as if" discipline: it constantly asks us to imagine unfamiliar positions or unpredictable juxtapositions of characters, images, events, and ideas. It thus asks us to go visiting in order to develop a capacious and imaginatively rich perspective of our own. In a complex and crowded world, it is impossible--and I think undesirable--to make rules for all situations. We very much need people in all disciplines who can move beyond the narrowness of insular perspectives to big picture thinking. My aim as a teacher to address that need.

Teaching Interests

Canadian and American literature, literary theory, poetry and poetics

Research Interests

Canadian and American literature, literary theory, international modernism, poetry


Invited Talks (2011-2016)

*“The Astonishment Tapes.” Poets’ House, New York. 12 December 2015; Woodberry Room, Harvard University, 9 December 2015. See Woodberry website for video.  [Launch of The Astonishment Tapes]

*“Composing the Field in San Francisco: Blaser, Duncan, Jess, Spicer and Friends.” School for Visual Art in New York, 5 December 2014. See Miriam Nichols at vimeo for recording.

*“Robin Blaser’s Astonishment Tapes: Translating the Archives.” Talk delivered at UBC, Okanagan, 26 July 2014. Revised version to be presented at City University, New York, 4 December 2014.

Mythopoiesis in Charles Olson’s Later Maximus Poems: The Importance of the Beautiful.” Revised version of Gloucester talk to be delivered at the School for Visual Art in New York, 3 December 2014.

“Venus Rising: Mythopoiesis in the Later Maximus Poems of Charles Olson.” Talk delivered 16 July 2014 at the Gloucester Writers’ Center, Gloucester, MA.

"Variable Measure: Pound, Olson, Hejinian." Invited paper for a conference on French Theory and American Poetry. University of California, Berkeley. 31 March-2 April 2013. Revised version presented at Kent University, UK, 27 November 2013.

* Starred publications are those coming directly from my biographical research on Robin Blaser


The Astonishment TapesL Talks on Poetry and Autobiography with Robin Blaser and Friends. Editor. University of Alabama Press, 2015. 

Juried Books

Radical Affections: Essays on the Poetics of Outside. Tuscaloosa, AL: U of Alabama Press, 2010.

Juried Editions

Ed., with introduction and annotations. The Astonishment Tapes. Tuscaloosa, AL: U of Alabama Press, 2015.

Ed., with introduction, annotations, and commentary.  The Fire:  The Collected Essays of Robin    Blaser.  Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2006.

Ed., The Holy Forest: The Collected Poems of Robin Blaser.  Rev. Ed. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2006.

Ed. Even on Sunday: Essays, Readings and Archival Materials on the Poetry and Poetics of Robin Blaser. Orono, ME: National Poetry Foundation, 2002.

Juried Articles (2011-2016 only)

"Myth and Document in Charles Olson's Maximus Poems." Contemporary Olson. Ed. David Herd. Manchester: U of Manchester P, 2015. 25-37.

Non-juried Articles (2011-2016)

“I am writing a biography . . . .“ Itinéraires 18.1. Forthcoming.

*“George Bowering and the New American Poetry: A Conversation.” Interview in The Capilano Review 3.24 Fall 2014): 148-54.

"The Closing of the Field: Modernism at the Wall." Open Letter 15.2 (Spring 2013). Olson @ the Century. Guest-edited by Steve McCaffery.13-24.

Juried Conference Papers (2011-2016)

“Wild Space: Thinking Space through Modern Poetry and Indigenous Art.” European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture, and Environment, Brussels, Belgium. 27-30 October 2016.

*"The Astonishment Tapes: Robin Blaser on the Berkeley Scene." University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK, 23 November 2013.

"Deep, Dark Ecology: The Story of Little Otik." Conference on Ecopoetics. University of California, Berkeley. 22-24 February 2013.

"Allegories of the Medusa: Nicole Brossard's l'écriture feminine and the unfreezing of the real," National Poetry Foundation, Poetry of the 80s Conference, 27 June-1 July 2012.

"The Closing of the Field: Modernism at the Wall."  Modernist Studies Association, 6 - 9 October 2011.

 * Starred publications are those coming directly from my biographical research on Robin Blaser

Back to Faculty

Twitter Facebook Linkedin Flikr UFV on Google+ YouTube goUFV