Talladega, Alabama—Poet Nikky Finney won the National Book Award for poetry this week at the National Book Awards in New York. Finney is a 1979 alumna of Talladega College. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the College, and she is currently a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Kentucky.
Finney said about her award, “I thought this was incredibly powerful. I’ve been raised in communities when land and the house on it was the legacy that many black people left their children. Many times it was the only legacy.”
This week, Finney has added to the long legacy of successful graduates of “The Alpha Lyrae Vega of Them All,” Talladega College. Her book entitled, Head Off & Split is a collection of poems and dialogue with figures like Rosa Parks, Condoleeza Rice, and common, everyday people. The poems in this work have strong themes and are thought provoking. Alumna Finney is the daughter of a former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, Ernest A. Finney. A South Carolina native, Finney even once witnessed her mother dance with U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, who earned a reputation for his political stance with integration and racism. In Head Off & Split, Finney writes of that moment in a poem she titled, “Dancing with Strom.”
This current work has earned Finney the attention and acclaim of critics nationwide. Kwame Dawes, founding director of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative says, “Finney establishes herself as one of the most eloquent, urgent, fearless and necessary poets writing in America today.” The Talladega College family is proud of Nikky Finney’s honor. Her book Head Off & Split can be purchased at Amazon.com.