Unity Paradigm

The Unity Paradigm (UP) is a framework in which all my work - past, present, future - may be placed so that it may exist within a common context. It is a function of Harmonic Theory, and attempts to reconcile various structures, some of which are apparently at odds, through juxtaposition and hybridization.

UP is an attempt to define, demonstrate boundaries, and on occasion dissolve them. It is essentially Buddhist and poetic because it seeks to identify analogous forces, parallels, parities, comparisons, metaphors, and so on, and show the relative oneness or sameness of disparate, often seemingly contradictory, contrasting, or paradoxical things. It is also a Daoist thought structure, or even Manicheanist, as it is sometimes a bringing together of opposites, and shows essentiality of all things, and the impossibility of polarities to eliminate each other or achieve some final victory over one another.

To approach work through the UP is to have a skeleton on which to hang all the organs, the muscles, and the skin of said work so that it forms an organic whole in terms of form and content in poetry, fiction, music, photography, philosophy, video, assemblage, sound art, graphic design, and so on.

It should be noted that successful unity between forms is neither universally sought or desired. At times, the unity displayed may be the contrast itself, or often a deliberately incoherent, dissonant effect.

In a fundamental way, the UP is an application of the musical Drone Principle, meaning that a single things is presented for a duration. In music, that means a recurring or sustained tone, as in the music of the Indian sitar, or Western Drone music, which begins with LaMonte Young. The monotone is also applied to ostinato figures and vamps.

The Drone has within it the implication of the mathematical and spiritual infinite. Under UP, I permit myself sustained monomanias. In this way it is also a framework for creative behavior patterns - indulgences and deprivations, and the attempt at balance between them.

I have sustained a monomania for poetry for half a year, leading to rapid development and learning. I believe I have reached a true breakthrough via this method of sustained attention, having increased my comprehension, close-reading technique, and facility with a few technical methodologies. I have read more poetry as well as criticism, which has deepened my hermeneutic practice. I feel as though I am now on the cusp of producing actual poetry.

All that being said, the most natural course to pursue at this, the beginning of a new year, is to leave the intensive and extensive practice of poetry momentarily.

To clarify, I won’t quit writing poems, but I will pause my study of poetry. Instead I will produce poems to the best of my current ability and focus my learning elsewhere, specifically on image-making, treating it as an aspect of the core pursuit of writing poetry.

Now the real poetic practice may begin. I will study again in the future, but for now I must apply all that I have learned and direct my curiosity to vision, a fundamental aspect of poetic experience.

Artist's Statement for Photography

I wrote the following artist’s statement for my photography, most of which features my children, Beatrice and Ambrose, and my brother Danny. The text is also found at the link below:


These photographs represent more or less one year in the life of the three people to whom I am closest: my children Beatrice and Ambrose and my brother Danny. My parents Larry and Rose Nichols are here too, as well as the kids' mama Lily Knights. 

Photography is a way of mapping emotional landscapes, a method of storytelling. It is geography and it is cartography. When selecting these pictures I looked for two things: a person or persons in motion and emotional content. The quiet internal drama of facial expression and body language becomes implied narrative. The moments I'm looking for are not the occasional crises, but the many moments surrounding them in all their emotional complexity. It’s not the flame I seek to capture, but the ember and the wind with which it’s stoked.

Childhood is a time of great mystery and wonder. It is a time of joyous peaks and deep sorrows, a time of exploration and discovery, and it is a time of gain and a time of loss. My daughter Beatrice is on the Autism spectrum, highly functioning. She and her brother Ambrose are close in age, 18 months apart. Their continued growth is fascinating to me.

In 1990 my older brother Danny was injured in a car accident that left him permanently and totally disabled. He suffered a traumatic brain injury which caused him numerous physical impairments, but somehow his character remained intact. His speech and mobility are affected, as well as his short-term memory, and yet his humor is as irreverent as ever. His demeanor is sociable, likable, exuberant. But as would be expected for someone in his condition, he also suffers deep loneliness. From January 2013 to December 2017 I was his full-time attendant caretaker. 

In the future I aim to broaden my subject matter to include other people and places, but for a time, at least, I'm going to stick to picturing the ones I love the most.

North Carolina Tour

On Tuesday, June 12, 2018, Beatrice, James Ambrose and I began a four day tour of North Carolina. The idea for the jaunt was to make a loop around parts of the state with which the children and I were all unfamiliar. I made a list of possible destinations, we packed our things, and set out.

The goals for the trip were:

  • See places we've never or rarely seen

  • See art

  • Swim

  • Walk - cities and parks

Above all, I planned to do some family tuning. In Asheville, we stopped for pizza and then met a friend for a walk. I enjoy Asheville's counterculture vibes but that evening it reawakened the old longing to relocate somewhere, anywhere but wherever I'm living. We spent the night in a motel, then the kids swam in the motel's pool the next morning before we set out for Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak in the eastern United States. On the way, we stopped at the Folk Art Center, a museum and market featuring artwork and handicrafts from the Appalachians.

Mt. Mitchell was fog-cloaked and rainy. Kids were scared and uncomfortable and protested being there but toughed it out admirably. We had a three hour stretch to Greensboro so we sang a couple of childrens' songs (I Been Workin' on the Railroad, Skip to my Lou) and I rewarded their fortitude with a surprise ice cream - the last thing they expected! They were very serious about those cones.

Greensboro has railroad lines going through its downtown, so it reminds me of a much larger Spartanburg. Elsewhere is a place unlike any other, a museum and a playground and a continually shifting incubator for artists. I had visited there once before, with Lily ca. 2008, and in the intervening decade the space's dedication to lateral-thinking art projects has been maintained beautifully, even as the amorphous organism that is the museum itself changes rapidly.

On Friday, we spent some high-quality time with Justus Knights in the state's capital. Raleigh also is home to the North Carolina Museum of Art, where we saw collections ranging from Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome to European and American portraiture, pre-Columbian pottery and sculpture as well as Renaissance oils. We saw works by Auguste Rodin, Kihende Wiley and Alberto Giacometti, all of whose human images are as startling as they are arresting.

Beatrice and Ambrose, reflecting (when questioned about what made impressions on them) upon the museum visit, noticed the nudity of much of the work, especially classical Greek sculpture and the large, dark bronze casts of Rodin's powerful figures. They puerily wondered about the dismemberment of the bodies represented, through wear and breakage and otherwise.


This short tour was packed with content thanks to its improvisational spirit. It was modeled, structurally, on a reckless and ramshackle tour of six states undertaken in 2015: Western North Carolina, all of Tennessee, crossing the state line in Arkansas and then zipping through Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. The basic idea for that one was to go as far west as possible before I had to turn around and there were no destinations chosen in advance of getting in the car.

Several destinations on the NC tour were not decided beforehand, but a number of them instead were loosely sketched out. Mt. Mitchell was chosen because I had happened to see a road sign on the way to the motel near Asheville on Tuesday evening, and hoped we could do some hiking the next day. It was both relaxing and stimulating to be free of strict routine and free to roam. The most fundamental aim of the trip was getting the family more in line, and we made progress in that.