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By Erik Maloney, Graduate Communications Editor

Photo Credit: Forrest Clonts

Nikky Finney, the 2020 Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence, will be giving a public reading on Tuesday, February 25. The free event will take place in the Genome Sciences Auditorium, room 100, at 7:30 p.m.

Finney will also be participating in two public panel discussions. The first, “Poetry and Sports: Poetry in Motion—Motion in Poetry,” will take place Monday, February 24, at 3:30 p.m., in Donovan Lounge (Greenlaw Hall, room 223). The second, “‘Blacker than a hundred midnights: Public History and Memory and the Souls of Blackfolk in the South,” will occur on Thursday, February 27, at 3:30 p.m., in the Anne Queen Commons of the Campus Y.

Born in 1957 in Conway, near the coast of South Carolina, Finney grew up during the Black Arts, Black Power, and Civil Rights movements. She began writing poetry as a teenager and later attended Talladega College in Alabama, developing a voice that draws broad connections across literature, history, politics, and culture. As a poet and librettist, a teacher and traveling lecturer, a photographer, a performance artist, and a committed activist, she has constructed a body of work that, while public and engaged, also dives deep into the lived experiences of ordinary people.

Finney has published four books of poetry: On Wings Made of Gauze (1985); Rice (1995), which received a PEN American Open Book Award; The World Is Round (2003), which received a Benjamin Franklin Award for Poetry; and, most recently, Head Off and Split (2011), which won the National Book Award for Poetry. Deeply involved with the Black Arts movement, she is a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, a group of poets who seek to capture the diversity of the Appalachian experience.

Finney’s illustrious teaching career includes twenty-one years of teaching creative writing at the University of Kentucky. She now holds the John H. Bennett Jr. Chair in Creative Writing and Southern Letters at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

The Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence Program began in 2016, building on previous departmental writer-in-residence positions. The program brings important contemporary writers to campus to meet students and faculty and to offer public readings and panel discussions. Named for Frank Borden Hanes Sr., who endowed the Thomas Wolfe scholarship, the program further invigorates the literary culture that thrives on UNC’s campus. The department is honored to host Nikky Finney as this year’s Hanes Writer-in-Residence, and Tuesday’s event will offer the wider public a chance to hear and engage with this compelling and important writer and public intellectual.

Photograph of Nikky Finney
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