Manhattan Plaza: The Book

 cover art: Eve Sonneman, Disc Acrobat, 2007, courtesy Nohra Haime Gallery, NY

Manhattan Plaza

a full-length collection of poetry by James B. Nicola

174 pages

ISBN: 978-1-62549-092-6

Publication Date: August 2014


There are now FIVE reviews of Manhattan Plaza! Here are the two latest: 

From the current (2015) Vermont Literary Review: 

James B. Nicola's Manhattan structured with the thoughtfulness of an architect's blueprint or a tour guide's Baedeker.... It reads as colloquially and on as tight a stage as Frank O'Hara's “The Day Lady Died”.... But it also travels out as all Manhattan dwellers do onto the broader stage, as grand as Walt Whitman's “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”.... Throughout..., Nicola employs a versatility of rhyming verse; free, couplet, quatrain.... Nicola's laser not only illuminates the nitty-gritty, but it also echoes the journey of T. S. Eliot's “Little Gidding:” ... “to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time.” Manhattan Plaza reads like a biography or memoir.... [A]fter all our wanderings and wonderings: “We have become New York.”

—Burnham Holmes

From the current (2015) Green Hills Literary Lantern:

Nicola adopts the mantle of facilitator, guide, and keen observer.... [The] introductory flourish quickly establishes Nicola’s voice and humor as both a relatable and insightful guide.... Streets and stanzas make for vivid encounters and oblique rumination.... The book’s final pages are filled with hospitality, vulnerability, and reflection, mingling a confessional style with surveys of places and people. Nicola’s integrative style allows him to render abstractions–of history, of the city–personal. Perhaps one of Nicola’s greatest accomplishments in adopting this style is his investigation of the lingering wounds wrought by the September 11th terrorist attacks on the nation, the city, and himself.

—Shawn Bodden

Here are two from last year:

The mentally and emotionally on fire...a fresh new voice who loves people and thrives on living among them….

 —Christina Zawadiwsky, 

“[T]he reader...has no choice but to be forever transformed.... I was left homesick for a place I have never had the pleasure of calling home.”

——April Salzano,

Four of the five reviews are available in their entirety, at links below:

REVIEW at BlackandWhiteGetsRead.pdf

REVIEW at FutureCycle.pdf



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James B. Nicola

(212) 594-2408 (landline)
nicolajamesb [at] juno [dot] com

Advance Word 

Manhattan Plaza is a beautifully crafted evocation of life in The Big Apple seen from the per­spective of a Manhattan skyscraper and its occupants.

Philip Fisher, London Editor, British Theatre Guide
Theatre critic, book reviewer and occasional guest at Manhattan Plaza



We found James’ poems moving, clever, beautiful and deeply personal. Some are pow­er­fully spare, while others are wonderfully evocative of our city as a whole; we see and feel not only our fantastic Manhattan Plaza neighborhood, but also any other place you might hang your hat.

——Dylan and Becky Ann Baker, actors and Manhattan Plaza residents



“And things you know you suddenly don’t know/except as a whistling from the wil­der­ness,” writes James B. Nicola in Manhattan Plaza. The poems in this book make a Whitmanesque mosaic of tugboats, subways, pastry shops, ghosts, “Thomas Hardy,” speed walking couples, Macy’s Turkey Day balloons and more. We trust the voice in this book which, at once, comforts and challenges us. The book’s grand metaphor of “The City” takes us on a journey of exploration where we confront our relationship to ourselves, our communities, our history, our future—even our “might have” loves. But the journey is one imbued with kindness for, after all, as Nicola writes, “…aren’t we here to ease each other’s lives.”

——Lois Roma-Deeley, author of High Notes (poems)



James has an extraordinary awareness of happenings in everyday life that he shares with the reader in this love letter to the Manhattan Plaza. His loose rhythm ambulates through­out, but with studious detail, and his investigative mind looks beyond the simple realities to find the why, where and how. With a sense of humor and admiration, James artistically poeticizes and marvels at everyday life at the Plaza.

——Anita Velez-Mitchell, award-winning poet and author



* * *




New York



open and close—








The phone rang weekly in that early age

of ringing, wringing out ammonia tears,

when the plague was new. Actors of too few years

and roles were lost, too many ghosts of stage

and film too quickly made. Now, calls from lover,

spouse or sibling are rarer, but not over.


Were you to phone today and tell me that

you’d found my number starred beside my name

in his black book, and thought that you should take

the time to dial me up and tell me what

he’d thought of me, that I was not the same

as others he’d known, I’d ask When’s the wake?

and tell you to be glad that you’re alive.


I might not have, in 1985.


* * *


In The Dimness


I met a man who said he’d been looking most of his life only to find

that it was never there, the thing that he was looking for,

and looked back now and regretted just about everything,

one way or the other. At least, that's what he said.

He’d made his million, maybe two, said he had a man for counting,

but what did he have to show for it, he asked. He liked my songs,

he said, stuck a sawbuck in the snifter, and bought the room a round.

He didn’t partake anymore, himself, he said. It was an off night,

a small crowd, off-season, but they all swayed to my music

and stayed long. When he went to the loo, that’s what he called the john,

everybody said What a nice man. They called him by his first name.

My name was on the placard out front, but no one ever said it,

they just requested music. He came back and told them all

that they had to stuff the snifter, too, and they did. On my breaks

I listened at his table with the others. And I told him

that I thought he had nothing to regret, that that was a dim view

of everything, and all he’d done and not done, tried and didn’t,

that it was just the way, in the general scheme of things,

for us all to be here tonight, together, with this music, wasn’t it magical,

and everyone agreed with me, and bucked him on the back,

and clapped for me and slapped their extra bills and filled my snifter.

I told him money’s money, but it’s more—a metaphor.

For what? Can't say, I said, then told him he’d found, and gave, and got,

after hours, tonight, what I’d spent most of my life looking for.

Then in the dimness I saw him smile a second or so, I thought.


* * *




What it was doing in my bathtub, I don’t know,

the dirty thing. I must have left the door

to my terrace ajar. But I live on the forty-fifth floor,

where gulls and pigeons aren’t supposed to go.

And when I’d left that morning, the sky was blue,

there was no wind, no reason to suspect

the weather to lose its temper and affect

their homing sense. At work that day I too

for no real reason had been irritable.

I nearly cursed the guano. When two guys

from security came to take it down, I heard

the larger mutter, “What a beautiful

white bird!” —True, but it came as a surprise,

his sudden tenderness, for such a bird.


* * *


James B. Nicola,
Nov 6, 2015, 9:24 AM
James B. Nicola,
Dec 2, 2014, 10:25 AM
James B. Nicola,
Dec 2, 2014, 10:25 AM