Presented with the University of Arizona Poetry Center. Sponsored by the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, the Creative Writing Program at Arizona State University, the Literary and Prologue Society of the Southwest, and the Angela and Leonard Singer Endowment for Performing Arts.
Poet Nikky Finney was born in 1957 in South Carolina. The daughter of a lawyer and teacher, Finney’s parents were both active in the Civil Rights movement and her childhood was shaped by the turmoil and unrest of the South in the 1960s and ‘70s. In an interview with the Oxford American, Finney noted: “I've never been far away from the human-rights struggle black people have been involved with in the South. That has been one of the backdrops of my entire life.”
Finney’s engagement with political activism has also influenced her trajectory as a poet. Carefully weaving the personal and political, Finney’s poetry is known for its graceful, heartfelt synthesis of the two. Influenced by Lucille Clifton and Nikki Giovanni, Finney’s poems explore subjects ranging from the human devastation of Hurricane Katrina to Rosa Parks to the career path of Condoleezza Rice.
Speaking about her latest book, the National Book Award-winner Head Off & Split (2011), Finney told the Lexington Herald-Leader: “I know the sound of the '60s and '70s. There was a lot of standing with signs, there was a lot of shouting. I wanted to be a poet who didn't shout, who said things but said them with the most beautiful attention to language … I've been really working on this for 30 years, exploring how those two paths intersect, the path where the beautifully said thing meets the really difficult-to-say thing, and that's where I think this book finds its light.” - Poetry Foundation
Naomi Shihab Nye was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1952. Her father was a Palestinian refugee and her mother an American of German and Swiss descent, and Nye spent her adolescence in both Jerusalem and San Antonio, Texas. She earned her BA from Trinity University in San Antonio. Nye is the recipient of numerous honors and awards for her work, including a Lavan Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, the Carity Randall Prize, and many Pushcart Prizes. She has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and was a Witter Bynner Fellow. From 2010-2015 she served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Nye’s experience of both cultural difference and different cultures has influenced much of her work. Known for poetry that lends a fresh perspective to ordinary events, people, and objects, Nye has said that, for her, “the primary source of poetry has always been local life, random characters met on the streets, our own ancestry sifting down to us through small essential daily tasks.” Nye continues to live and work in San Antonio, Texas. -Poetry Foundation