Annie Finch

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Annie Finch
Born (1956-10-31) October 31, 1956 (age 57)
New Rochelle, New York, USA
Occupation poet, writer, librettist, translator
Genre poetry
Notable works Eve, Calendars, The Body of Poetry, Among the Goddesses, Spells: New and Selected Poems
Notable awards

Robert Fitzgerald Award
2009

Sarasvati Award
2012

Annie Finch (born 1956) is an American poet, writer, critic, playwright, teacher, and entrepreneur, author of numerous books of poetry as well as poetry translation, anthologies and textbooks, popular writings on spirituality, and musical lyrics and opera libretti. The Dictionary of Literary Biography names her "one of the central figures in contemporary American poetics."[1] In the title essay of The Body of Poetry, Finch connects her poetry's frequent thematic focus on nature, the body, and spiritual issues, and also its attention to pattern and sound, with her earth-centered spirituality. Her writings about poetry frequently focus on form, meter, and rhythm and on women's poetic traditions. She has also published creative nonfiction and cultural criticism, much of it on the topic of women's spirituality.

Biography[edit]

Annie Finch was born on October 31, 1956 in New Rochelle, New York, the fourth of five children. Her family roots were artistic, intellectual, and progressive. Her maternal great-aunt, Jessie Wallace Hughan, was a founder of the War Resisters League. Her father, Henry Leroy Finch, was a conscientious objector in World War II, a founder of WBAI and a scholar of Ludwig Wittgenstein, and her mother, Margaret Evelyn Rockwell Finch, was a poet, a doll artist, and president of the National Institute of American Doll Artists. One of her sisters married the sculptor Donald Judd. Both of Finch's parents were passionate about poetry. In the introduction to The Body of Poetry, Finch describes their first meeting at a lecture by W.H. Auden on Shakespeare, and her essay "Desks" claims her father's book collection and her mother's poetry as influences on her work.[2]

Finch graduated from Oakwood Friends' School in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1973 and studied filmmaking and poetry at Bard College at Simon's Rock before earning her B.A. in English Literature at Yale University in 1979 (where she studied Versification with Penelope Laurans, widow of Robert Fitzgerald), her M.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Houston in 1983 (thesis advisor, Ntozake Shange), and her Ph.D in English and American Literature from Stanford University in 1990 (dissertation advisor, Diane Middlebrook).

Finch's poetry first found a national audience in 1997 with the publication of Eve (Story Line Press, reissued by the Carnegie Mellon Contemporary Classics Poetry Series, 2010). The book drew attention from reviewers for its unexpected use of traditional forms and meters for feminist mythmaking and incantatory "shapeshifting." [3] Her next book, Calendars (Tupelo Press, 2003), employing an even wider range of meter and form and centered on themes of earth spirituality, was shortlisted for the Foreword Poetry Book of the Year. In 2010, Tupelo released an audio version and Readers Guide to Calendars. Finch's "narrative libretto" Among the Goddesses: An Epic Libretto in Seven Dreams, which combines elements of opera libretto and epic poem to tell a story of abortion and goddess-centered spirituality, was published by Red Hen Press in 2010. Spells: New and Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 2012) excerpts these books along with fifty previously unpublished poems, including a selection of experimental "lost poems" from the late 1980s, translations, and verse drama; it arranges four decades of Finch's poetry chronologically for the first time.

Finch is active in poetic theater, in keeping with her belief in the ritual and performative uses of language. In New York in 1983 she directed and performed a performance version of her first book, The Encyclopedia of Scotland (Salt Publishing, 2005). Her MA thesis, written under the direction of playwright Ntozake Shange, consisted of three metrical verse dramas: "Sheba in Eden," "The Mermaid Tragedy," and "Pandora at Pompeii." While enrolled at Stanford, Finch produced, directed, and acted in several short poetic plays and participated in a workshop on poetic theater with Bob Holman. Her opera Marina, based on the life of poet Marina Tsvetaeva, was produced by American Opera Projects in 2003 with music by Deborah Drattell, and Finch's libretto version of her epic poem "Among the Goddesses" is interwoven into the narrative version in the 2010 edition of the poem. In 2010, Poets Theater of Maine premiered Finch's multimedia ecological verse play "Wolf Song" at Mayo Street Arts in Portland, Maine under the direction of Assunta Kent.

In 2011, Finch began to publish a blog under the name "American Witch." She has since published numerous articles on Wiccan and pagan spirituality at The Huffington Post. She is the founder and CEO of the online market and community American Witch Enterprises.

Finch and her husband, environmental organizer Glen Brand, have two children. In 2004 they moved to Maine, where she served until 2013 as Director of the Stonecoast MFA Program, the low-residency MFA in creative writing at the University of Southern Maine. She teaches poetry writing on the faculty of the West Chester University Poetry Conference and online at Poetcraftcircles.com.

Poetic Themes and Strategies[edit]

Many of the themes and images in Annie Finch's work have been inspired by pagan and Wiccan spirituality, as is clear with her first book, Eve, organized around a series of poems on ancient Goddesses. Claire Keyes notes in the entry on Finch in Scribner's American Writers, "A strong current in [Finch's] work is the decentering of the self, a theme which stems from her deep connection with the natural world and her perception of the self as part of nature."[4]

Finch is also known for her use of formal poetic techniques (the Readers Companion to Calendars Readers' Companion to Calendars notes fifteen different meters used in the book) and much of her critical work centers on the postmodern and feminist uses of formalism. In an article in Contemporary Authors, published two years before her first full-length book of poetry, Finch remarked,[5] "To me, poetic form, with its nonverbal, physical power, is radically important in reconnecting us with our human roots and rediscovering our intimacy with nature . . .. rhythmic formal poetry is of great value in celebrating, commemorating, and cementing the bonds of community."[6]

Finch has made clear her interest in reaching a wide audience in essays such as "Occasioning Occasional Poetry" and "Where Are You, General Audience?,",[7][8] and her poetry has wide appeal. For example, one of her poems is installed in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine accompanying the memorial to the September 11 attacks by Meredith Bergmann. Finch's work is also respected by academic critics such as U.C. Berkeley professor Charles Altieri, who called her "a major poet" in a comment on "Calendars," and has been compared by Ron Silliman to the work of Robert Duncan and Bernadette Mayer.[9] In an interview with New Formalist poet R.S. Gwynn, Finch has remarked, "I divide [contemporary poetry] into four tendencies: formalist, oral tradition-performance, mainstream free verse, and experimental. I feel lucky to have encountered firsthand so many influences from these four divergent kinds of poetry. In my own work, I like to think, these different approaches have united to bring me back full-circle, yet in a new way, to the poetry I loved first, and best, when I was young."

Honors and awards[edit]

  • 2012 Among the Goddesses Awarded Sarasvati Award for Poetry by the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology
  • 2009 Robert Fitzgerald Prosody Award
  • 2008 Fellowship, Black Earth Institute
  • 2006 Complete Poetry of Louise Labe Awarded Honorable Mention for a translation in the field of women’s studies by the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women
  • 2005 Alumni Award, University of Houston Creative Writing Program
  • 2003 Calendars a finalist for the Foreword Poetry Book of the Year Award
  • 1993 Nicholas Roerich Fellow, Wesleyan Writers Conference

Works[edit]

Books of Poetry[edit]

  • Spells: New and Selected Poems. Wesleyan University Press, 2012.
  • Among the Goddesses: An Epic Libretto in Seven Dreams Red Hen Press, 2010. [Winner, Sarasvati Award for Poetry, Association for the Study of Women and Mythology].
  • Shadow-Bird: From the Lost Poems. Dusie Kollektiv/Ugly Duckling Presse, 2009.
  • Calendars. Tupelo Press, 2003. [Shortlisted, Foreword Poetry Book of the Year Award for 2003]. Second edition with Audio CD and downloadable Readers' Companion, 2008.
  • Eve. Story Line Press. 1997. [Finalist, National Poetry Series, Yale Series of Younger Poets, Brittingham Prize].
  • The Encyclopedia of Scotland. Caribou Press, 1982; Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2005.

Poetics[edit]

  • A Poet’s Craft: The Making and Shaping of Poems. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012.
  • The Body of Poetry: Essays on Women, Form, and the Poetic Self. Poets on Poetry Series, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.
  • The Ghost of Meter: Culture and Prosody in American Free Verse. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993. Paperback edition with new preface, 2001.

Poetry Translation[edit]

  • The Complete Poetry and Prose of Louise Labé: A Bilingual Edition. Edited with Critical Introductions and Prose Translations by Deborah Lesko Baker and Poetry Translations by Annie Finch. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

Opera Libretti[edit]

  • Lily Among the Goddesses. Music by Deborah Drattell. Production in progress.
  • Marina. American Opera Projects, DR2 Theater, New York, 2003.

Anthologies[edit]

  • Villanelles. Coeditor with Marie-Elizabeth Mali. Random House: Everymans Library, 2012.
  • Multiformalisms: Postmodern Poetics of Form. Coeditor with Susan Schultz. WordTech Communications, 2008.
  • A Formal Feeling Comes: Poems in Form by Contemporary Women. Brownsville, OR: Story Line Press, 1994. Reprinted by Wordtech Editions, 2007.
  • Lofty Dogmas: Poets on Poetics. Coeditor with Maxine Kumin and Deborah Brown. University of Arkansas Press, 2005.
  • An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art. With Katherine Varnes. University of Michigan Press, 2002.
  • Carolyn Kizer: Perspectives on Her Life and Work. Coeditor with Johanna Keller and Candace McClelland. CavanKerry Press, 2000.
  • After New Formalism: Poets on Form, Narrative, and Tradition. Brownsville, OR: Story Line Press, 1999.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Barron, Jonathan N. "Annie Finch." Dictionary of Literary Biography 282, 101
  2. ^ Finch, Annie. "Desks." The Body of Poetry, 106-110
  3. ^ MacDonald, C.G. "Review of Eve," Poetry Flash, Nov/Dec. 1998
  4. ^ Keyes, Claire. "Annie Finch." Scribners American Writers Series 2009, 00
  5. ^ "Annie Finch", Contemporary Authors 1994, Gale Research Group, 2000
  6. ^ Finch, Annie. "Annie Finch." Contemporary Authors 146, 150
  7. ^ Harriet blog, Poetry Foundation, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2009/06/where-are-you-general-audience/
  8. ^ Harriet blog, Poetry Foundation, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2009/04/occasioning-poetry/
  9. ^ Silliman, Ron. "Review of Calendars by Annie Finch." Silliman's Blog, October 13, 2002

External links[edit]