Saturday, June 22, 2013

Inspirations from Nikky Finney

Don't miss this great interview with Nikky Finney.  She talks about winning the National Book Award and about her activities as judge this year.  She talks about returning home to South Carolina, even though many of the elements that inspired her to leave are still there, "in brighter colors than ever before," as she puts it.

When I heard that she would be joining the faculty at the University of South Carolina, I felt a turmoil of emotions.  Careful readers of this blog may know that I earned my MA and PhD at that school; I was there from 1987 to 1992.  At that time, the most prominent creative writer on staff was James Dickey.  A few other older white men comprised the creative writing faculty, and at that time, poetry was not the focus of the creative writing faculty.  How I wish I could have had the opportunity to study with a poet like Nikky Finney. 

Ah well.  I have opportunities here that I would yearn for if I lived in a different part of the country.  I must keep remembering that.  And I had the opportunity to study with wonderful feminist scholars in other disciplines when I was at USC.  I must keep hold of that knowledge.  And it's important to note that almost all of my professors were encouraging in all sorts of ways.

So while I might not have gotten the creative writing training that I might get now, I did get great lessons in being a scholar, a teacher, an activist, and a member of the community.

But I digress.  Back to Nikky Finney.

She talks about being part of a team of artists put together to celebrate the sesquicentennial of end of the Civil War.  What an intriguing opportunity; I wonder what they'll create.  What would you create?

She talks about the artists who have helped her get to where she is today:  Lucille Clifton and Toni Cade Bambara.  She talks about her need to give back to the community.  And she reads a great poem about Lucille Clifton.

Her advice to aspiring poets:  "Now, I am hopefully urging on another generation, the next generation of young, passionate, risk-taking, truth-telling writers to say, don't be afraid of this, you can do this, just have the resolve to do it, and it'll work itself out."

Good words for all of us.

And here's a great idea and a great metaphor for the artistic endeavor: 

"I have a friend Dorianne Laux - lives in North Carolina. And she's married to poet. And she tell me this great story at the Dodge Poetry Festival this year. She said they bought one of those real estate boxes that the agents put outside the house with the information about the house inside.

So they put it outside their house. Their house was not for sale but they stuffed poems inside the box. And so people would stop and they thought they were taking out, you know, information that would give them the square footage about the house. And they would unfrill the paper and it would be, you know, the square footage of the human heart instead. And they would stand at the window, she said, and watch people reading the poems slowly and how slowly the car might take off. That's what we do as poets."

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