Nikky Finney is the author of the poetry collections Head Off & Split (TriQuarterly Books, 2011), winner of the 2011 National Book Award; The World Is Round (InnerLight Publishing, 2003); Rice (Sister Vision, 1995); and On Wings Made of Gauze (W. Morrow, 1985). She has been a faculty member at Cave Canem summer workshop for African American poets; a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, a particular place for poets of color in Appalachia; poet and professor for twenty-three years at the University of Kentucky; and visiting professor at Berea and Smith Colleges. She won the PEN American Open Book Award in 1996 and the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for the Arts in South Carolina in 2016. Nikky Finney’s work, in book form and video, including her now legendary acceptance speech, is on display in the inaugural exhibition of the African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
A NEW DAY DAWNS: NIKKY ON THE CONFEDERATE FLAG
It is the pearl blue peep of day. All night the Palmetto sky was seized with the aurora and alchemy of the remarkable. A blazing canopy of newly minted light fluttered in while we slept. We are not free to go on as if nothing happened yesterday, not free to cheer as if all our prayers have finally been answered today. We are free, only, to search the yonder of each other’s faces, as we pass by, tip our hat, hold a door ajar, asking silently who are we now? Blood spilled in battle is two-headed: horror and sweet revelation. Let us put the cannons of our eyes away forever. Our one and only Civil War is done. Let us tilt, rotate, strut on. If we, the living, do not give our future the same honor as the sacred dead – of then and now – we lose everything. The gardenia air feels lighter on this new day, guided now by iridescent fireflies, those atom-like creatures of our hot summer nights, now begging us to team up and search with them for that which brightens every darkness. Soon, it will be just us again, alone, beneath the swirling indigo sky of South Carolina, working on the answer to our great day’s question: Who are we now? What new human cosmos can be made of this tempest of tears, this upland of inconsolable jubilation? In all our lifetimes, finally, this towering undulating moment is here.
Nikky Finney, 9 July 2015
Published in The State
“Why Social Disconnect Helps to Fan the Flames of Bigotry.” NPR. 27 June 2017.
“SC Native, Nikky Finney, wins National Book Award for Poetry.” The New York Public Library. 17 November 2011.
“National Book Award 2011 Winners Jesmyn Ward and Nikky Finney Tackle Race and History.” Huffington Post. 18 November 2011.
Reading | April 23, 2019
Seminar | April 23, 2019
Podcast I April 23, 2019