University of South Carolina

Nikky Finney bio

Nikky Finney earned her bachelor’s degree from Talladega College in 1979 before studying African American Literature at Atlanta University from 1979-1981. While working as a writer, editor and photographer for the National Black Woman’s Health Project in Atlanta from 1984 through 1986, she began turning her creative energy toward poetry. She published her first collection of poetry in 1985.

In 1989 she accepted a position as Visiting Writer at the University of Kentucky. In 1991 she was appointed an assistant professor at Kentucky and subsequently moved through the academic ranks being promoted to associate professor in 1997 and professor in 2005.

The quality of her creative work, teaching and service to the University of Kentucky was recognized in 2009 when she was designated a Provost’s Distinguished Service Professor. In September 2012 she was appointed the Guy Davenport Endowed Professor of English.

In addition to her service at Kentucky, Finney has been a visiting professor at two colleges, including the Grace Hazard Conkling Writer-in-Residence at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. in 2007–2009 and the Goode Chair in Humanities at Berea College from 1999-2000. Finney’s creative work and leadership in the public life of South Carolina was recognized in 2002 when she was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities by Claflin University.

A prolific author, Finney has earned growing acclaim for the insight and power of her work. Since 1985 she has published four collections of poetry:

• “On Wings Made of Gauze,” William Morrow, Inc., New York (1985)

• “Rice,” Sister Vision Press, Toronto, Canada (1995)

• “The World is Round,” Innerlight Books, Atlanta (2003)

• “Head Off & Split,” Northwestern University Press, Chicago (2011)

In addition she published a collection of short stories titled “Heartwood,” by the University of Kentucky Press (1998) and edited “The Ringing Ear,” a poetry anthology by the University of Georgia Press (2007).

Finney’s work has won a number of prizes and awards, most notably the National Book Award for Poetry in 2011 for “Head Off and Split.” However, two of her other collections won prestigious awards: “The World is Round” was winner of the 2004 Benjamin Franklin Award for Poetry and “Rice” won a PEN America Open Book Award in 1995.

Posted: 01/09/13 @ 8:00 AM | Updated: 01/09/13 @ 8:35 AM | Permalink