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MLK LECTURE TO FEATURE ACCLAIMED POET NIKKY FINNEY JAN. 22

Nikky Finney, renowned poet and author of the critically acclaimed book of poetry "The World Is Round" and the poignant poem "Brown Country," will deliver Old Dominion University's annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lecture Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Free and open to the public, the lecture will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the North Cafeteria of Webb Center.

A native of Conway, S.C., Finney is a professor creative writing at the University of Kentucky and is serving as the Grace Hazard Conkling Writer-in-Residence at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., during the 2007-08 academic year. She earned her bachelor's degree in English literature from Talladega College in Alabama.

In one of her most well-known poems, "Brown Country," Finney expresses her love of country music, but also her ambivalence about keeping quiet about it. She writes: "How do you explain being African/and loving country." She sums up her internal war in the last few lines of the poem: "Country music is historical/This is the music we were lynched by/These are the hangman's songs."

Finney published her first book of poems, "On Wings of Gauze," in 1985. "Rice," a collection of stories, poems and photographs, was published in 1995. Her acclaimed poetry collection, "The World is Round," was published in 2003 and won the Benjamin Franklin Award for Poetry the following year. She is editor of the anthology "The Ringing Ear," a contemporary collection of poems by 100 African American writers. It was published in 2007 by the University of Georgia Press.

After arriving at the University of Kentucky, Finney had difficulty meeting other African American writers. She later met Frank X. Walker, a fellow poet who helped her create a workshop for black writers. Walker named the group the "Affrilachian Poets," after looking up the term "Appalachian" in a 1988 encyclopedia and discovering that the word was defined as "white residents of mountain regions." "Affrilachian" is a fusion of the words African American and Appalachian, a term that describes black residents from Appalachia, a region of the United States that extends from southern New York state to northern Mississippi.

According to Finney, poetry has been her "favorite language forever: lavishly visual, plain-as-day lyrical and passionately portrait-yielding."

For more information about the lecture, call 683-3114.

This article was posted on: December 11, 2007

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