An Inspiring Poet who Popularized the Haiku Form
Nick Virgilio was born in Camden, New Jersey, and served in the Navy during World War II. Upon returning from service, Nick attended, and graduated from Temple University and began his career as a radio announcer. Widely known as “Nickaphonic Nick,” and working with Philadelphia’s famous radio disc jockey personality, Jerry Blavat, Nick developed a following and eventually moved to Texas to become a sports radio announcer.
Later, in the 1970’s, after dealing with an emotional breakup, Nick returned home to Camden seeking respite from his failed relationship. Nick was told that he should stay busy and occupy himself with positive thought and exercise. Coupled with the recent loss of his younger brother in the Vietnam War, Nick turned to writing haiku poems for solace and inspiration.
His love for haiku eventually made him a thought leader and an amazing author of some of America’s most poignant and powerful haikus. Nick is best known for his pioneering work in American haiku where he transformed the 5-7-5 Japanese syllable format into today’s accepted American Haiku format, which allows for the use of fewer syllables in more of a free form. Nick often called his poetry “word paintings”, capturing moments in time while exercising extreme word economy. Many of his most famous poems can be found in his classic collection, “Selected Haiku” available online from the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association.
George Vallianos, a Cherry Hill New Jersey resident and President of the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association, grew up in the same Fairview neighborhood as Nick. The Camden native owned the Elgin Diner, his family landmark eatery on Mount Ephraim Avenue, in business for over four decades.
In an interview in the Courier-Post, Vallianos said “I guess it was around 1976. Nick comes into the diner. I’m all excited and yell, that’s Nick Virgilio . . . Nick-a-phonic Nick!” he recalls. “We became friends. Nick would come into the diner with his poetry and try out his newly finished poems on any customer who would listen. He’d sit at the counter and work on them. He’d always have a toasted bran muffin and a decaf coffee.”
Keeping a Legacy Secure with Window Film
In 2010, on the urging of Monsignor Michael Doyle of Camden’s Sacred Heart Church, the Heart of Camden, a multi-faceted community developer, acquired the vacant property on the corner of Broadway and Jasper with the intention of transforming it into the Nick Virgilio Writers House.
“The three-story building at Broadway and Jasper Street — once a crumbling Camden eyesore, the kind that distressed the poet as he lamented the erosion of his beloved hometown — would become a creative haven just 1.9 miles from Virgilio’s grave on a serene hill in Harleigh Cemetery.” writes Courier Post journalist, John Scanlon.
The Nick Virgilio Writers House (NVWH) seeks to promote education, literacy and the creative exercise of the writing of Haiku and other poetry within the community.
The NVWH wanted its guests, students, and community members to feel safe and secure while attending functions at the Writers House and to protect its property and valuable contents from loss or damage. That’s when Layr was approached to support their work.
We showed the Writers’ House Board of Directors how to protect their amazing facility and installed 3M’s micro-layered, patented, security window film to create reinforced glass.
As the city of Camden and community leaders like George Vallianos work to revitalize the community, theft and break-ins are still big concerns.
Layr’s patented, invisible, micro-layered window film formed a protective layer on the glass’s interior, an attractive option compared to unattractive steel bars. A further protective anchoring system was used, bonding the glass, film, and frames together.
As a result, the NVWH now benefits from the same trusted, standards-accredited security solutions that embassies and federal buildings have trusted for decades.
With the construction of the Writers House completed, the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association is preparing for a new chapter in its organizational history. Layr is thrilled to have met and worked with Mr. Vallianos and the Nick Virgilio Writers House.
Protecting communities is a key part of Layr’s ongoing mission.