Goddard Residency Spring 2013, visiting writer: Nikky Finney
Nikky Finney’s presentation, The Paleontology of Poetry had no description in the syllabus. I showed up anyway. I am not a poet. It didn’t matter. I understood. Nikky Finney’s world-view is just that – a total, unrelenting, uncompromising, awareness of how we navigate our journeys and how history paves our way and deconstructs us. We must always be in awe – we must always be curious. Never take anything for granted: a shard of broken glass in an abandon lot, a torn sepia photograph, a voyage to a foreign land, a Beatles song.
She loves dinosaurs and continues to marvel at their genealogy, their longevity, and the complexity of their species – how much science and risk their discovery entails. Their bones, their bones, their bones – all tell stories. If you can just find one bone you can discover what their environment was like, the food they ate, how thick their skin was, the air they breathed and the other creatures that lived with that one bone when it had life. The evocation of history is necessary.
It cannot be separated from us – from our mind’s eye, from our intent. Nikky spoke of the importance of grasping moments that are fleeting – events that are transient and yet, leave permanent impressions. Nothing exists on its own terms without interacting – it weaves and bobs and cajoles and smacks and is shaped according to the next thing and the next thing and the next. What did I overlook today? How will that affect what I do tomorrow? Which fragment did I discard? Why didn’t I go through the window? What did I know before I was six years old? I knew everything, evidently.
Thank you, Nikky, for reminding me.
— Deborah Johnstone
Head Off and Split: Poems by Nikky Finny