Presenter of the National Book Awards

2011 National Book Award Winner,

Nikky Finney

Head Off & Split

TriQuarterly, an imprint of Northwestern University Press


The poems in Nikky Finney's fourth 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.


Nikky Finney is professor of creative writing at the University of Kentucky and the author of three previous volumes of poetry, The World Is Round (winner of the 2004 Benjamin Franklin Award for Poetry), Rice (winner of a PEN America Open Book Award in 1995), and On Wings Made of Gauze (1985). Recipient of the Kentucky Foundation for Women Artists Fellowship Award, Finney is also the author of Heartwood, a collection of stories, and edited The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South.

Author photo by David Flores


Excerpt from Nikky Finney's Head Off & Split

Click on image to read excerpt (PDF).