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Nikky Finney

Keynote Speaker

Nikky Finney was born by the sea, in the small fishing and farming community of Conway, South Carolina. She is the daughter of a civil rights attorney and an elementary school teacher. Finney has been writing for as long as she has memory. Poetry has been her favorite language forever: lavishly visual, plain-as-day lyrical, and passionately portrait-yielding.

Finney received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature from Talladega College in Alabama. While in graduate school, at Atlanta University, she dedicated herself to the crafting of her first body of original narrative work.

In 1985, Finney published her first book of poems, On Wings Made of Gauze. In 1995, Finney published Rice, a collection of stories, poems, and photographs. Rice won the PEN American Open Book Award in 1999. Finney’s 1998 volume of short stories, Heartwood, was written to assist adult literacy students across the country. Her latest poetry collection, The World Is Round, was published in 2003, and won the 2004 Benjamin Franklin Award for Poetry. She is editor of the anthology The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, a rich contemporary collection of 100 poetic black voices published by the University of Georgia Press in 2007. In 2010, her fourth book of poetry, Head Off & Split, is forthcoming by Northwestern University Press.

Finney is professor of creative writing at the University of Kentucky, where she was recently chosen a 2007 “Provost’s Distinguished Service Professor” for a three-year period. Her contagious energy and passion for writing extend beyond academia. She travels extensively, reading to listeners, staying connected and engaged, and maintaining her commitment to the risky business of creativity. During the 2007–2009 academic years she is honored to be the Grace Hazard Conkling Writer-in-Residence at Smith College in Northampton, Mass.


Darian Aaron
Christopher Adams
Yolo Akili
Jafari Allen
Marlon Bailey
Moya Z. Bailey
Samiya Bashir
Pamela S. Booker
Cheryl Boyce-Taylor
Djola Branner
Sharon Bridgforth
Laurinda Brown
Tisa Bryant
C.C. Carter
Staceyann Chin
Cheryl Clarke
Grisha Coleman
Baraka de Soleil
R. Erica Doyle
M. Asli Dukan
Torkwase Dyson
Steven G. Fullwood
Ronald Gauthier
Thomas Glave

Dorothy Randall Gray
Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Ernest Hardy
James Earl Hardy
Reginald Harris
Thomas Allen Harris
Nalo Hopkinson
G. Winston James
E. Patrick Johnson
Daniel Alexander Jones
Omi Osun Joni L. Jones
John Keene
Andre Lancaster
Ana Lara
Notisha Massaquoi
Lenelle Moïse
Lisa C. Moore
Alphonso Morgan
William Moses
Nick Mwaluko
Zanele Muholi
Anton Nimblett

Wura-Natasha Ogunji
Sonja Perryman
Carl Pope
Matt Richardson
Yoruba Richen
Colin Robinson
Awilda Rodriguez Lora
Michelle Sewell
Shawnta Smith
Pam Spaulding
Aurin Squire
Selly Thiam
Julia R. Wallace
Mami Watu
Yvonne Welbon
Tim’m T. West
Marvin K. White
Karen Williams
Kerrie Cotten Williams
Ronaldo V. Wilson
avery r. young
Kortney Ryan Ziegler

NOTE: Fire & Ink III: Cotillion acknowledges this is a working schedule, and reserves the right to change the Cotillion program. Fire & Ink III: Cotillion is not responsible for any act or omission of speakers from the program.

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