Nikki Finney’s work (and her mentorship) has been re-casting my sensibility of my own voice for many years now. Her poems stay steeped in personal and public history in a way that won’t let us forget that the one cannot actually relinquish the other.
This poem, to my reading, epitomizes and essentializes this work of Finney’s. It is sublime, her ‘map’ of the American South here. She has always been particularly skilled at this specific portraiture and its nuances of love and hostility, but here the artist’s brushstrokes have become even finer, more exact. I chose to record this poem in part because of the brilliant sonic evocation of the repetition - how among other things, she echoes gunfire’s retort while holding the entire scene in the well cared for and familial love of these black folk, teaching their daughter to survive in the only way they know how.
If one can achieve the duende in the word before the word is actually uttered, then it is achieved here - the soaring, the lifting, the contracting with writer and reader to be transported into new understandings of love and fight and black people. I hope you dig it.
To schedule a reading or an appearance please contact Ofer Ziv at Blue Flower Arts at 845-677-8559 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.