With ‘Stay,’ poet Nick Flynn combines his art with dozens of collaborators

David Wilson for the Boston Globe

“The collaborations started when I was 12,” said poet Nick Flynn, describing a childhood summer spent writing a Sherlock Holmes-style mystery with a friend. A few years later, once the science fiction bug hit, he added, “I got another friend to collaborate on a Kurt Vonnegut-style story. That was how we spent our summer. I always liked to work with other people.”

This month sees the publication of “Stay,” a kaleidoscopic self-portrait that combines Massachusetts native Flynn’s writing, photography, and collage with visual art from dozens of collaborators and influences and friends. Flynn has long been interested in how different arts and artists can work together; for the past 15 years he’s taught a class at the University of Houston that brings together writers, musicians, dancers, and visual artists to create collaboratively.


Flynn began taking photographs in his 20s (“I was very un-artistic. But I was interested in art,” he says of those early years), and doing collages soon after. “The writing was harder,” he said. “It took longer. I didn’t publish a book till I was 40. But I probably made more collages than wrote good poems before that.”

Now 60 and with a dozen books behind him, Flynn said that “Stay” is coming at the right time. “It’s interesting for this book to come out at this moment. I pretty much got sober when I was 30 — for the first time. That was like the beginning of when I had a chance of being an artist. This book is a chance to gather together other people. What I love about the book is that it isn’t just me.”

Sheltering with his family outside New York City, Flynn said he misses the random encounters of the pre-pandemic life. But, he added, “I’m a bit of a fatalist. I probably expected this to happen my whole life. It’s not like, how can this be happening, it’s like, oh, finally it happened.


Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.