As I read some of Nelson’s quotes [on the FNB site], I could hear his voice, see him gesturing — I loved how he would deliver a statement with a deadpan expression, and then at the moment that the class caught the humor, he would smile and start chuckling as he stood there at the lectern, resting his weight on a forearm. I laughed out loud when I read his comment about cliché maple trees. Now as I reflect on it, I recall him saying many similar things. Although I can’t quote him directly, I remember him saying on many occasions that every event in your day is a poetic moment. I also remember him emphasizing the importance of not mixing metaphors.
Nelson gave a gift to people that goes beyond his passion for poetry: he created a universe where people loved to dwell. They came to enjoy the community and warmth that he himself generated. From our exchanges in his classes, he seemed to indicate that he thought I had promise as a poet. Then when my father died when I was 20, Nelson unknowingly (or perhaps not so unknowingly) gave me an outlet for my grief. I penned a number of poems related to my dad — bad poems I now realize — and he invited me to read them at one of the workshops. He was reaching out to me, and between my grief and shyness I read at but one of those workshops.Music
Several years after my last class with him, he and I entered the same elevator in Kane Hall one night. I reintroduced myself, and the man who had known thousands of students told me that he indeed remembered me, and pulled up a couple of details to prove it. I told him in that brief elevator ride about how an unfortunate subsequent class with another professor had derailed me from writing poetry, but that I thought I would one day get back to it. On that night he wasn’t as warm as I expected; he was probably tired and heading home, or maybe he was a little surprised that I would allow some negative idiot to remove me from the beauty of poetry. He told me not to give up.
– Nate Keyes