Professional News

UK's Finney Featured in Poets and Writers

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 24, 2011) — "For Nikky Finney, whose fourth book of poems, 'Head Off & Split,' is out this month, fearlessness isn't just a character trait. It's a responsibility."

So Kevin Nance's March Poets and Writers profile of University of Kentucky English professor Nikky Finney begins.

This month, Finney's iconic presence graces the cover of what can aptly be described as the Sports Illustrated of poetry.

The South Carolina native has taught at UK for 20 years and, as her latest work shows, she has no plans to quiet down.

Even the pleas of Finney's late grandmother, Beulah Lenorah Davenport, who believed that Finney's more "challenging and pugnacious poems," might just include things better left unsaid, failed to thwart the expressive and captivating poet, according to Nance.

But while Finney fearlessly tackles the policies of Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush, bashes former South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond and ruminates on her own personal growth in "Head Off & Split," she humbly carries this month's issue of Poets and Writers in a paper bag.

"Now, how would that look … me carrying around a magazine with my picture plastered on the front," she laughs, full of comfort, love and home. You've known her for years.

In all seriousness, Finney is simply stunning in her latest and greatest, as she challenges the racial politics of her family's past in South Carolina, as well as the universal turmoil of gender, sexuality and race found throughout our current culture.

"As an artist and a daughter of the South, and as someone who honors my feelings as often as I can, I don't have to acquiesce to the polite expectations of the moment," she says. "I have watched black people forgive and forget over and over again … I too forgive, but I don't forget … My responsibility as a poet, as an artist is to not look away."

Finney's Poets and Writers front-page feature is in hard copy of the magazine only.

But her official Kentucky launch of "Head Off & Split" will take place on March 4 at the Carnegie Center in downtown Lexington.

Finney will also read March 9, during the Affrilachian Poets/20th Anniversary Reading Symposium on Affrilachia at UK and on March 30 for the Holler! Poets Reading Series at Al's Bar.

"I'm trying to have a conversation about truth. We all have our truth, and we're all here for a minute," she said in Poets and Writers. "What will we leave behind to honor that great word that comes out of everybody's mouth every day, but doesn't always mean what it should?"

For more information on Finney and her work, check out her newly launched website: