Peterson, Nils

Peterson, Nils

Date Updated



English, Humanities

Academic Rank


Year Retired from SJSU

1999, after FERPing

Facebook or Website URL

Nils Peterson: Statement of Poetic Intent

Includes selections of writings, photos, videos, etc.

Nils Peterson, Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County: Address to San Jose City Council on the Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 2010.

On Brahms, Kennedy, and music . . .

1963, the year the world became different.

Educational Background

Centre College, 1954, BA

Rutgers, 1963, MA

Teaching Experience

Rutgers, TA, 1961-1963

SJSU, 1963-1999

Administrative and Professional Experience

Asst Director of Admissions, Upsala College, 1955-1957

Asst Production Control Manager, Airstream Trailers, 1958-1960

Selected Publications

He has published poetry, science fiction, and articles on subjects as varied as golf and Shakespeare, several chapbooks, and three collections of poems The Comedy of Desire (edited and introduced by Robert Bly), A Walk to the Center of Things, and All the Marvelous Stuff. Talk in the Reading Room, was chosen by Wordrunner Press as its memoir selection in 2014. earth, water, fire, air a collection of poems each illustrated by a watercolor by Lorraine Chapparall appeared in 2016. The Dear Time of Our Talking, poems and essays about working with Robert Bly, appeared in 2020.

In 2009, he was chosen to be the first Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County. In 2019, he was honored by SVCreates for his work as poet and teacher as the OnPage Laureate of the Year. All the Marvelous Stuff was chosen as the best collection of poems at the 2020 San Francisco Book Fair.

Other comments on his poetry:

  • Jane Hirshfield: “Nils Peterson’s poems move with depth, authority, and the occasional grace-granting glint of humor....”
  • Robert Bly: “This is a book with humor and grace.”
  • Joseph Stroud: “he is an artisan of the ‘keen, clear song.”
  • Coleman Barks describes his poetry as “so intelligent, lonely, funny and real. Necessary….”

See Nils Peterson: Statement of Poetic Intent for a more comprehensive list of publications.

Personal Commentary

Next Stop
May morning. I lie between two dogs, the little
new one rests against my leg, the middle-sized
old one curls into an oval in her bed on the floor.
They’ve been fed. I’ve been coffeed. In-between-time.

I’ve been reading some poems, and though I can
think of nothing they’ve said that would cause this
to happen, I’m sixteen and on a train going off to college.
The engine has failed to keep up with the striding sun so

the sky has fallen dark. An answering dark has risen
from the forest and hills of Penn’s woods.
I’d been
on trains before, mostly on New-Haven Hartford
into New York City even though it was more expensive

than the usual trolley to subway. And now I’ve eaten
from the heavy silver and thin china of the dining car,
smoked a cigarette in the shifting, noisy space
where the car before links to the car behind.

I have gotten my one sweater out of my suitcase
and folded my sports jacket with the too-short
sleeves so it wouldn’t wrinkle much. I’ve read
all my eyes will allow in the dim coach car light.

Nothing to do but try to sleep while the train
ticked along the rails that would not let it go
other than where it was going, then sleeping,
fitfully, even through the Pittsburgh stopover,

till I woke up, fed the dogs, made coffee
and started to read poems....

One of the things I’m doing now is writing a column for 3quarksdaily [ ] for the 4th Monday of every month on everything from love poems to politics.


Peterson, Nils