Nikky Finney: 2011 National Book Award for Poetry Recipient

The Project on the History of Black Writing celebrates poet Nikky Finney on receiving the National Book Award for her 2011 collection of poetry Head Off & Split (2011).

Below, we have offered a synopsis of her latest collection of poetry (via her website), compiled a short bibliography of Finney’s work, provided a link to her acceptance speech.

Click here for a short biography of Finney as well as a chance to view her acceptance speech.


Head Off & Split (2011): The poems in Nikky Finney’s breathtaking new collection Head Off & Split sustain a sensitive and intense dialogue with emblematic figures and events in African-American life: from Civil Rights matriarch Rosa Parks, to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, from a brazen girl strung out on lightning, to a terrified woman abandoned on a rooftop during Hurricane Katrina. Her poet’s voice is defined by an intimacy, which holds a soft yet exacting-eye on the erotic, on uncanny political and family events, like her mother’s wedding waltz with S.C. Senator Strom Thurmond, and then again on the heart-breaking hilarity of an American President’s final state of the Union address. Artful and intense, Finney’s poems ask us to be mindful of what we fraction, fragment, cut off, dice, dishonor, or throw away, powerfully evoking both the lawless and the sublime.

Other works by Finney:

On Wings Made of Gauze. Morrow, William Co., 1985.
Rice. Sister Vision Press, 1995.
Heartwood. University Press of Kentucky, 1997.
The World is Round. InnerLight Publishing, 2003.
Head Off & Split: Poems. Triquarterly, 2011