Michael Nielsen

Michael Raymond Nielsen

May 5, 1949 ~ April 18, 2013


A poet, scholar, and seaman, Michael died on Thursday at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland following a tenacious battle with heart arrhythmia.


Michael was born in San Francisco, the first son of Ray and Virginia Nielsen, and raised in Marin County. He graduated from Terra Linda High School and obtained an A.A. degree from College of Marin, a B.A. in English Literature from U.C. Berkeley, and an M.A. from San Francisco State University. Michael paid for his education by wide-ranging skills as a machinist, in foundries, and in construction. But his primary earnings came from the sea, first as an Ordinary Seaman in the merchant marine, then as the co-owner of a fishing boat out of Fisherman's Wharf, later as a deep-sea diver, and ultimately as a self-trained deck officer, rising to the level of licensed Second Mate. Michael generally plied the waters of the North Pacific on oil tankers, but traveled widely and circumnavigated the Earth. Eventually forced ashore by injury, Michael taught himself computer network engineering and worked in that field for several years at Bank of America.


Michael's first love throughout was literature. He was an accomplished and published poet and remained active in literary circles. His graduate work focused on the poetry of William Blake and he read intensely in virtually every school of literature from Homer through the Beats. He took pride in his translations of Catullus and Horace and had special interest in works of Kenneth Rexroth, Robinson Jeffers, and William Everson.


A fierce gambler who could cuss like the sailor he was, Michael was a confident, usually informed and always opinionated speaker and debater whose presence could never be missed and rarely forgotten. In recent years he took increased interest in economics and the politics of liberty and worked for the unsuccessful congressional campaign of Marilyn Singleton. He became an active member of St. Mary Magdalen Dominican Parish in Berkeley. He drank deeply of life.


Michael is survived by his sister Mary Nielsen Abbott (Mitchell), his brother James Nielsen (Mary), his nephew Michael Abbott, and his nieces Caroline and Genevieve Nielsen. He was predeceased by his parents and his brother Thomas Nielsen.


Graveside services will be Saturday, April 27, at 2:00 p.m. at Mt. Tamalpais Cemetery, 2500 Fifth Avenue, San Rafael.


Funeral Home

Mount Tamalpais Mortuary
2500 Fifth Avenue San Rafael, CA 94901
(415) 459-2500
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Apr. 23 to Apr. 25, 2013