|Nikky Finney (photo from The Poetry |
Center at Smith College)
In an interview with Oxford American, Finney stated that the "human-rights struggle" of Black people in the South has been "one of the backdrops of my entire life." Raised in a household with parents who were both active in the Civil Rights movement, Finney's childhood was very much shaped and influenced by social and racial turmoil in the 1960's and 1970's South. Her poetry continues to reflect her concern with race, personal narratives, and political activism. Finney's writing pays careful attention to the beauty of language. In speaking of her book Head Off & Split, she said she wanted to speak "with the most beautiful attention to language" in her poetry.
Earlier this month, Finney wrote a stirring NPR Editorial titled "The Bare Arms of Angry Black Women," in which she expounds upon the glorious history of the Black woman's bare arms-- arms that "[hold] our children tight inside of them," that are used to "wave to each other," that "boldly swing ... when we walk, because we know arms reach out, give regard." Finney writes:
"I come from Black women who knew America could not be America without the presence of their arms, women who never hid their arms, who carried their arms brazenly, and sometimes because it was the only work we could get, lost an arm while working at the chicken or flashlight factory. Women who liked their arms, needed their arms, and shot out their arms to shield someone they loved. As a girl I saw Black women regularly pushing up their long sleeves or boldly sporting a sleeveless Sunday Easter dress because Black arms had to breathe, stay free, be quick to open and ready to fly ..."The rest of her essay can be read HERE IN ITS ENTIRETY .
Below is Nikky Finney discussing her poem "My Time Up With You" from the award-winning collection Head Off & Split: