Minnesota Poetry: Tim Nolan’s “Bullhead”

Tim Nolan was born in Minneapolis in 1954 and graduated from teh University of Minnesota in 1978 with a B.A. in English. He and his wife Kate moved to New York City in 1978 where he obtained an M.F.A. degree in writing from Columbia University, worked as an archivist at the Whitney Museum, and read the poetry slush pile for The Paris Review. Tim returned to Minnesota in 1985 and received his law degree from William Mitchell College of Law in 1989.

Nolan now practices in litigation with the McGrann Shea Law firm, and lives with his wife Kate and their three kids in South Minneapolis.

For some reason Nolan’s slightly creepy poem about a bullhead fish struck me as perfect on what is forecast to be an unbearably hot summer’s day.


We used to throw them back,

disgusted with their prominent

white skulls, bulging eyes,

black shoestring whiskers.

They deeply offended our sense

of what a fish should be. Dirty

scavengers, eating everything

off the sludge bed. They seldom

played on the line, but took bait

with a heavy, impolite thump,

their white bellies rolling

toward the boat. They slid out

of water like drenched birds

snarled in seaweed, their mouths

bleeding from the hooks. Always

we threw them back, down to Hell

where they would think to rise again.

– “Bullhead” by Tim Nolan, as it appears in his collection The Sound of It, published by New Rivers Press. Reprinted here with permission from the author.

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