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Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence

Nikky Finney

Winner of National Book Award for Poetry

Photo of Nikky Finney, taken by Forrest Clonts
Photo by Forrest Clonts

2020 Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence Reading

February 25, 2020

7:30 p.m.

Free and open to the public. No tickets required.

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100 Genome Sciences Auditorium
250 Bell Tower Road
UNC Campus



Panel Discussions

Poetry and Sports: Poetry in Motion—Motion in Poetry

Monday, February 24 at 3:30pm  ||  Donovan Lounge, 233 Greenlaw Hall

Nikky Finney (Forrest Clonts), Courtney Banghart, Liz Roberts, Alan Shapiro (Sarah Boyd)

  • Nikky Finney: Poet and activist, 2020 Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence
  • Courtney Banghart: UNC Women’s Basketball Coach
  • Liz Roberts: UNC Women’s Basketball Player, Class of 2020
  • Alan Shapiro (moderator): Poet and Professor of Creative Writing in the Department of English and Comparative Literature

Panel sponsored by 2020 Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence Program

“Blacker than a hundred midnights”: Public History and Memory and the Souls of Blackfolk in the South

Thursday, February 27 at 3:30pm  ||  Anne Queen Commons, Campus Y

Nikky Finney (Forrest Clonts), Fred Joiner (Thomas Sayers Ellis), Danielle Purifoy (Katherine Webb-Hehn), Randall Kenan (Sarah Boyd), Jennifer Larson (Sarah Boyd)

  • Fred Joiner: Poet Laureate of Carrboro
  • Danielle Purifoy: Carolina Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Geography
  • Randall Kenan: Fiction writer, Professor of Creative Writing in the Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • Jennifer Larson (moderator): Teaching Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of English & Comparative Literature

Panel sponsored by Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence Program




The cover of Nikky Finne's novel, The World is Round

Cover of Nikkey Finney's novel, Heartwood

Cover of Nikky Finney's novel, Rice

Cover of Nikky Finney's novel, Head Off and Split



Nikky Finney is one of the great visionaries in the world of American letters.  A poet, librettist, legendary teacher, and activist, she has spent a remarkable career helping readers understand America in all its joy, terror, and possibility.  Finney makes it her practice and poetics to amplify the voices of the “ones who longed to read and write, but were forbidden, who lost hands and feet, [who] were killed by laws written by men who believed they owned other men.”

Born in 1957 in Conway, South Carolina, and raised during the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Black Arts Movements, Finney began reading and writing poetry as a teenager growing up in the spectacle and human theatre of the South.  At Talladega College in Alabama, she began to explore the great intersections between art, history, politics, and culture.  These same arenas of exploration are ongoing today in her writing, teaching, and spirited belief in one-on-one activism.  She has written extensively for journals, magazines, and other publications, and is the author of four books of poetry: On Wings Made of Gauze; Rice; The World is Round; and Head Off & Split, which won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2011.

For twenty-one years Finney taught creative writing at the University of Kentucky and now holds the John H. Bennett, Jr., Chair in Creative Writing and Southern Letters at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.  She travels extensively, never lecturing, always inviting and hoping for conversations that just might improve the human condition.

Whether writing about Condoleezza Rice running on a treadmill, the massacre at Mother Emanuel Church,or the Confederate flag being removed from the South Carolina State House, Finney reminds us “we begin with history” and also with the intimate and complicated lives of everyday people.  An artist who has both won the National Book Award and been featured on ESPN, she prioritizes the human experience by being “in conversation, not in competition.”  Her work brings us to some of the most joyful and sorrowful places in American public and private life, places we often don’t want to return but can’t seem to leave behind: “You have to understand that fear is real,” she says, “but you don’t stop there.”  With deep rigor, bravery, and compassion, Nikky Finney helps all of us move toward deeper understanding and healing.


About the Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence Program

The Department of English and Comparative Literature proudly announces the creation of the Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence Program.  This program will build upon our department’s long-standing commitment to the value of a writer-in-residence program that spans over two decades. Through the generosity of the Morgan Writer-in-Residence Program (1993-2012) and the Distinguished Writer-in-Residence Program (2013-2015), our department has brought significant contemporary writers to campus to meet with students and faculty, to visit classes, and to give readings, talks, and symposia. The Frank B. Hanes Writer-in-Residence Program affirms and continues that tradition. It will ensure that our students continue to be inspired by interactions with important writers of our time.  Furthermore, it will greatly enrich the intellectual climate and lively literary culture on Carolina’s campus.

The Department of English and Comparative Literature heartily thanks the Hanes family for its generous sponsorship of the program.  The program honors the late Frank Borden Hanes, Sr., (Class of 1942).  Mr. Hanes has long been a gracious supporter of Creative Writing at Carolina and has made gifts with powerful lasting impact.  He endowed the Thomas Wolfe Scholarship, which brings highly promising young writers to the Creative Writing Program, and he also supported the teaching and creativity of our Creative Writing faculty in countless ways.  Mr. Hanes himself was a passionate author, a proud and loyal alumnus, and an outstanding citizen of our state.

Previous Writers-in-Residence

Frank B. Hanes Writers-in-Residence

  • 2019 – Tayari Jones
  • 2018 – Julia Alvarez
  • 2017 – Ted Conover
  • 2016 – Natasha Trethewey

Distinguished Writers-in-Residence

  • 2015 – Terry Tempest Williams
  • 2014 – Stewart O’Nan
  • 2013 – Mary Karr

Morgan Writers-in-Residence

  • 2012 – Athol Fugard
  • 2011 – Amy Hempel
  • 2010 – Edward P. Jones
  • 2009 – Mark Strand
  • 2008 – Alice McDermott
  • 2007 – Tim O’Brien
  • 2006 – Joan Didion
  • 2005 – Robert Hass
  • 2004 – Alice Walker (with Center for the Study of the American South)
  • 2003 – Calvin Trillin
  • 2002 – Tobias Wolff
  • 2001 – John Edgar Wideman
  • 2000 – Russell Banks
  • 1999 – Richard Wilbur
  • 1998 – Robert Pinsky / Rita Dove
  • 1997 – Richard Ford
  • 1996 – Beth Henley
  • 1995 – Annie Dillard
  • 1993 – (fall) Shelby Foote

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