We are writing today from the second floor of the Nick Virgilio Writers House, our freshly-renovated and newly-opened space at 1801 Broadway in Camden, NJ. In one corner sits Nick Virgilio’s typewriter, his brother Larry Virgilio’s boots from the Vietnam war, and his mother’s sewing machine. On the walls hang many of Nick’s haiku, alongside poster boards about superheroes and hip-hop made by Camden kids who participate in Mighty Writers programs. There are assorted cozy chairs arranged in a circle in one room, but it’s about 5:00 PM on a Monday, so there are also 10 kids sitting at a big table working on their homework now that they’ve finished writing poems inspired by their lives.
In other words, there’s a lot happening here! This year, in addition to continuing our past efforts—the 18th annual Haiku Society of America Nicholas A. Virgilio Haiku and Senryu Contest and our attendance at community events like the Collingswood Book Festival—there are new and exciting developments at the NVHA. We could use your support this year to keep this momentum going. The Writers House is open, Camden kids are writing in our space almost every day, and we are planning exciting new programs for poets and writers in the future.
Let’s back up to the springtime, when the Writers House first opened its doors. Our Grand Opening was held on April 28th and 29th. This event was a weekend-long celebration of haiku and of Nick’s life and work. More than 100 people attended, members of our local Camden community and international haiku fans alike. Our opening was covered in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Courier Post, and WHYY, a huge show of support and interest in the NVHA mission.
Since then, our space has been in near-daily use by Camden kids—most from our neighbor Sacred Heart School—through our partnership with Mighty Writers. Mighty Writers has been offering after-school and evening writing programs for kids in Philadelphia since 2009, with a focus on sharpening thinking and literacy skills. Under the warm, enthusiastic guidance of Mighty Writers Program Manager Vanessa Malave, there are programs for elementary, middle, and even high school students that meet in our house every week. We are already reaching about 30 kids, and that number is growing.
There is more in the works. This fall, we also hired our first staff member, Program Director Stephanie Cawley, a poet and teacher herself with experience in nonprofit communication and administration. She is developing and planning adult writing workshops, meditation classes, and a poetry reading series to help us build literary community and promote the writing of poetry, especially haiku.
We are also at work on a book of Nick’s as-yet unpublished haiku, and, in partnership with the Paul Robeson Library at Rutgers, Camden, we are creating a digital archive of Nick’s drafts and notes, which give insight into his meticulous writing and rewriting process. You can see some of this exciting material online already at nickvirgilio.camden.rutgers.edu.
To bring our vision to life, we need your support! Your gift in the form of a tax-deductible donation will help us offer these programs we’re designing for youth and adults and continue to keep our doors open for our communities in Camden and afar. We are so grateful to those of you who have donated to the NVHA over the last 29 years. This year your donation can help us to keep putting our principles into practice through workshops, classes, and events that promote poetry and literacy.
Please send your generous gift to the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association at 16 Sandringham Terrace, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003. Or you can donate by PayPal or credit card by clicking “support.”
We are honored by your participation. Please help us make our vision possible with your contribution.
Thank you again for your generosity!