After her rousing, inspiring acceptance speech for the 2011 National Book Award, Nikky Finney gives a poetry reading sponsored by The Poetry Center at SF State.
Nikky Finney was born in South Carolina, within listening distance of the sea. A child of activists, she came of age during the Civil Rights and Black Arts movements. At Talladega College, nurtured by Hale Woodruff’s Amistad murals, Finney began to understand the powerful synergy between art and history. She has written four books of poetry: “Head Off and Split” — winner of the 2011 National Book Award for poetry — “The World Is Round,” “Rice” and “On Wings Made of Gauze.” The Guy Davenport Endowed Professor in the English Department at University of Kentucky, Finney also wrote “Heartwood,” edited “The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South” and co-founded the Affrilachian Poets.
Finney’s electrifying acceptance speech recalled African American slaves who were not allowed to learn to read or write. The actor John Lithgow, MC for the National Book Awards, said, “That’s the best acceptance for anything I’ve ever heard in my life.”