Affrilachian Poets member and UK English Department prof Nikky Finney wins National Book Award for Head Off and Split. I was wowed when I got to hear her read at the Symposium on Affrilachia @ UK in March.
In a November 11 interview with WUKY, Finney explains the title of her collection:
When I was a girl, my mom would send me to the fish monger. I would go in, choose the fish, hand it over to him. He would inevitably say, "Head off and split" question mark.
I went back five years ago. The same phrase was said to me. I'd heard it a thousand times. I thought, wow, that's a great metaphor for what we dismiss or cut away or don't want to see. The cold grey eyes, the scales, the fins, and then we're handed over the succulent fish without all those nasty details.
I wanted to bring that in to talk about how, as a culture and a community and a country, that I think we have to stay involved in all the details. We can't hand the fish over and just get it back with the succulent fish. I think we're in a time where we really we have to sort of get our hands in there and do the dirty work and not hand it off to somebody else.
Here's Finney reading some of her poems:
"Left" (pdf of poem)
"My Time Up with You"
"Red Velvet" [about Rosa Parks]
"Dancing with Strom"
And a long reading at the New School (starting @ 12:20) starting with her recounting the story of when Nikki Giovanni came to Tallladega College.
There's an interview available at Oxford American and one at Poets & Writers for the February-March 2011 issue which you will have to read at the library, if you don't have a copy of the magazine.. The Virginia Festival of the book doesn't have its schedule up yet for March 2012, but announced via facebook that Finney is one of its readers.
Here's her acceptance speech (@16:50)
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/18565428 (I couldn't embed because evidently only YouTube works with Blogger.