Nikki Finney, at James Madison University. (Photo: JMU Media Services)

When the National Book Awards were announced last week, we were thrilled to see  University of Kentucky creative writing Professor  Nikky Finney win for her new book Head Off & Split. According to the official citation, the poems in this collection  “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 lightening, to a terrified woman abandoned on a rooftop during Hurricane Katrina.”

In addition, Finney’s acceptance speech at the Book Awards has justly gone viral. We fully agreed when presenter John Lithgow said, “That is the best acceptance speech for anything I have ever heard.”


While that speech was itself a poem, here’s a teaser taste of Finney reading and talking about one of the poems in her award-winning book, witnessing the grace and pain of a southern hurricane season in her song.

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