Head Off & Split
Winner of 2011 National Book Award for Poetry
Winner of 2012 GLCS Award for Poetry
Winner of 2012 SIBA Book Award for Poetry
Nominee for 2012 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry
The poems in Nikky Finney’s breathtaking new collection Head Off & Split sustain a sensitive and intense dialogue with emblematic figures and events in African American life: from civil rights matriarch Rosa Parks to former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, from a brazen girl strung out on lightning to a terrified woman abandoned on a rooftop during Hurricane Katrina. Finney’s poetic voice is defined by an intimacy that holds a soft yet exacting eye on the erotic, on uncanny political and family events, like her mother’s wedding waltz with South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond, and then again on the heartbreaking hilarity of an American president’s final State of the Union address.
Artful and intense, Finney’s poems ask us to be mindful of what we fraction, fragment, cut off, dice, dishonor, or throw away, powerfully evoking both the lawless and the sublime.
"Nikky Finney has been a fine poet much too long to say that this latest treasure is her promise coming into being. She exploded with so much talent with On Wings Made of Gauze and beautifully matured with Rice, yet Head Off & Split takes the promise of youth with the control of adulthood to bring her greatest exploration. Honest, searing, searching. We all, especially now, need this book of poems; we all, especially now, need this poet."---Nikki Giovanni, author of Bicycles
"Beginning with the sweepingly inclusive and powerful `Red Velvet,' a Middle Passage poem for our times, Nikky Finney takes the reader to a wonderfully alive world where the musical possibilities of language overflow with surprise and innovation. Finney has an ear to go along with the wildness of her imagination, which sweeps through history like a pair of wings. Her carefully modulated free verse is always purposeful in its desire to move the reader in a way that allows us intimate access to necessary observations about ourselves. These poems, in other words, have the power to save us."---Bruce Weigl, author of What Saves Us
"In Nikky Finney's Head Off & Split the beauty of language soars and saves us even as we skirt the raw edge of terror. And something rare and precious is restored, a light, a circling movement of the spirit. This is poetry to give thanks for."---Meena Alexander, author of Quickly Changing River
"No one opens a vein on the page with a sharper and more nuanced gathered set of senses than Nikky Finney. In Head Off & Split, she takes aim at the heart of American wrong-headedness with a sense of purpose and integrity not only respectful of, but fueled by, her own brand of multiple kinships and remembrance, a grand struggle-swagger of powerful literary inheritance."---Thomas Sayers Ellis, author of Skin, Inc.
"With Head Off & Split, Nikky Finney establishes herself as one of the most eloquent, urgent, fearless and necessary poets writing in America today. What makes this book as important as anything published in the last decade is the irresistible music, the formal dexterity and the imaginative leaps she makes with metaphor and language in these simply stunning poems. This is a very, very important achievement."---Kwame Dawes, author of Hope's Hospice
The hard * headed
My time up with you
The Condoleezza suite
Concerto no. 5: Condoleezza & intransigence
Concerto no. 7: Condoleezza (working out) at the Watergate
Concerto no. 11: Condoleezza and the Chickering
Concerto no. 12: Condoleezza visits NYC (during hurricane season)
The head * over * heels
Thunderbolt of Jove
Shaker: Wilma Rudolph appears while riding the Althea Gibson Highway home
Brown girl levitation, 1962-1989
The head * waters
Dancing with Strom
Negroes with guns
Men who give milk I
Penguin, mullet, bread
Liberty Street seafood
Head off & split
Instruction, final: to brown poets from black girl with silver Leica
From the critics
"... Finney’s poetic voice is defined by an intimacy that holds a soft yet exacting eye on the erotic, on uncanny political and family events, like her mother’s wedding waltz with South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond, and then again on the heartbreaking hilarity of an American president’s f... Read More »
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