By Pat Loeb
CAMDEN, NJ (CBS) – Nick Virgilio was an internationally celebrated haiku poet. Fans from his hometown of Camden are celebrating a new book of his work, A Life In Haiku, just published, 23 years after his death.READ MORE: Philadelphia Police: Man Shot In Chest, Killed In Kensington
In the 1950’s, “Nickaphonic Nick” was a DJ in Philadelphia, but romantic disappointment and the death of his brother in Vietnam led him to bear his soul in poetry.
He fell in love with the spare lines of the 17-syllable Japanese form called haiku, but poet Kathleen O’Toole says Virgilio gave it a distinctly American voice.READ MORE: Eagles Agree To Terms With 49ers Quarterback Nick Mullens
“Nick was one of a small group of pioneers who figured out that you didn’t have to write it in 5-7-5 syllables and it really could reflect not just nature as in beautiful, lovely, the countryside but it could be the streets of Camden.”
O’Toole was among those celebrating a new book of 100 previously unpublished Virgilio haikus, at Camden’s Sacred Heart Church, where, pastor Michael Doyle recalls, he’d test his work during mass.
“At the peace-giving, he would be whispering in some woman’s ear a new haiku.”MORE NEWS: WATCH LIVE: DA To Provide Update On Ongoing Issue Of Dirt Bikes, Motorcycles On Philly Streets Following Deadly Shooting In Port Richmond
His most famous lines– “Lily, out of the water, out of itself”– are inscribed on his headstone at Harleigh Cemetery in Camden.