Annie Finch

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Annie Finch
Born (1956-10-31) October 31, 1956 (age 59)
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
Sarasvati Award

Annie Finch (born 1956) is an American poet, writer, performer, playwright, and entrepreneur. Dictionary of Literary Biography names her "one of the central figures in contemporary American poetry".[1] In the title essay of her book The Body of Poetry, Finch connects her poetry's frequent thematic focus on nature and the body, and also its attention to pattern and sound, with her spiritual path as a witch and pagan. [2] Finch's prose articles and columns, in The Huffington Post and elsewhere, center on the divine feminine. [3] In the preface to her selected poems, Finch writes that she considers her own poems and verse plays to be "spells" that heal and raise consciousness through the magic of poetic language, especially form, meter, and rhythm.[4]

Early life[edit]

Finch's essay "Desks" claims her mother's poetry and her father's extensive library of literature, philosophy, and religion as influences on her work.[5] She began writing poetry early and has called her mother her "first and best teacher of poetry." [6] An interview in American Poetry Review describes the dramatic effect of a year Finch spent camping in Europe and the Middle East with her family at the age of six.[7] After earning her B.A. in English Literature at Yale University, Finch lived in the East Village of New York while composing, performing, and self-publishing her first book of poetry [8]

In 1986 Finch graduated from the MA program in creative writing at the University of Houston, where her thesis director was Ntozake Shange. In 1990 she earned a Ph.D in English and American Literature from Stanford University.

Poetic career[edit]

The experimental longpoemThe Encyclopedia of Scotland first appeared in 1982, but Finch's poetry found its national audience in 1997 with the publication of Eve (Story Line Press), which drew attention from reviewers for its unexpected use of traditional forms and meters for feminist mythmaking and incantatory "shapeshifting." [9] Finch's third book, Calendars (Tupelo Press, 2003), employing a wide range of meter and form and centered on themes of earth spirituality, was shortlisted for the Foreword Poetry Book of the Year. [10] In a review, experimental poet Ron Silliman compared Finch to Robert Duncan and Bernadette Mayer.[11] In 2010, Tupelo released an audio version and Readers Guide to Calendars.[12]

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, which appeared from Red Hen Press in 2010, received strong reviews.[13][14] Spells: New and Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 2012) excerpts the previous 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.[15] Finch's poetry appears in anthologies including The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century American Poetry. Her translation from French of the poetry of Louise Labé was published by University of Chicago Press, honored by the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women, and included in the Norton Anthology of World Literature.

Finch's interest in reaching a wide audience with poetry is discussed in essays such as "Occasioning Occasional Poetry" and "Where Are You, General Audience?".[16][17] Finch's poems for public occasions include the memorial poem for the September 11 attacks accompanying the commemorative sculpture by Meredith Bergmann installed in New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine.[18]

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."[19]

Critical Work, Editing, and Teaching[edit]

Several of Finch's critical books have had wide influence. An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art, coedited with Kathrine Varnes, has been praised for its "groundbreaking" scope and diversity and is widely assigned in university writing programs.[20] Villanelles. coedited with Alexandra Oliver (Everymans Library)was selected as a holiday gift pick by Garrison Keillor. The guide to writing poetry, A Poet's Craft: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Sharing Your Poetry, has been called "nothing less than an MFA program in 600 pages. [21]

Much of Finch's poetry criticism centers on the uses of formalism. In her essay collection The Body of Poetry, Finch describes her own creative process, discusses translation and women's poetic traditions, and advocates for "Metrical Diversity," the idea that formal poetry is more versatile, effective, and eloquent when it encompasses other metrical patterns in addition to iambic meter.[22]

Finch has taught at New College of California, Miami University, Stonecoast MFA Program, and other colleges.

Theater and Performance[edit]

Finch began writing, directing, and performing in poetic theater with the New York performances of The Encyclopedia of Scotland in the early 1980s. [23] She continued to write and perform brief verse plays in the Bay Area, including a workshop with Bob Holman's Poets' Theater, while writing longer verse dramas for her MA degree at the University of Houston. Her first opera libretto, Marina, based on the life of poet Marina Tsvetaeva, was produced by American Opera Projects in 2003 with music by Deborah Drattell, and a libretto version of her epic poem "Among the Goddesses," also written for Drattell, is interwoven into the narrative version in the 2010 edition of the poem. [24]

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 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."[25] And her work is always characterized by formal virtuosity. For example, the Readers Companion to "Calendars" published by Tupelo Press notes 15 different meters in the book [26]

In an article in Contemporary Authors, published two years before her first full-length book of poetry, Finch remarked, "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."[27]


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


Books of poetry[edit]

  • Goddess Poems. American Witch Publishing, 2015.
  • The Voice Was the Sea. Voices From the American Land, 2013.
  • 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.


  • 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.


  • Measure for Measure: The Music of Poetry. Coeditor with Alexandra Oliver. Random House: Everymans Library, 2015.
  • 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.


  1. ^ Barron, Jonathan N. "Annie Finch." Dictionary of Literary Biography 282, 101
  2. ^ Finch, Annie. "The Body of Poetry" The Body of Poetry, 84
  3. ^ Finch, Annie. "Nine Goddesses Every Woman Should Know." The Huffington Post, Aug. 27, 2014
  4. ^ Finch, Annie. "Preface." Spells: New and Selected Poems, xi
  5. ^ Finch, Annie. "Desks." The Body of Poetry, 106-110
  6. ^ Finch, Annie. "Preface." A Poet's Craft, xi
  7. ^ Giardino, Alix. "Casting Spells: An Interview With Annie Finch." American Poetry Review, January 2013
  8. ^ Finch, Annie. "Preface." The Encyclopedia of Scotland, xi
  9. ^ MacDonald, C.G. "Review of Eve," Poetry Flash, Nov/Dec. 1998
  10. ^ Small Press Distribution Catalog. "Calendars,"
  11. ^ Silliman, Ron. "Review of Calendars by Annie Finch." Silliman's Blog, October 13, 2002
  12. ^ Tupelo Press Catalog, "Calendars", 2010"
  13. ^ G.M. Palmer, Review of Among the Goddesses, "Strong Verse", Feb.2012
  14. ^ Midwest Book Review, "Among the Goddesses", Feb. 2011
  15. ^ Finch, Annie. "Preface." Spells: New and Selected Poems, iv
  16. ^ Harriet blog, Poetry Foundation,
  17. ^ Harriet blog, Poetry Foundation,
  18. ^ Finch, Annie. "The Naming." "Musings Blog," Annie Finch's website
  19. ^ Gwynn, R.S.. "Giving Back to the World Its Lost Heart: An Interview With Annie Finch." Ablemuse|
  20. ^ Brock, J. "Review of An Exaltation of Forms, Choice, September 2002
  21. ^ Palmer, G.M. "Why We Read: Spells by Annie Finch, The Critical Flame, September 2013
  22. ^ Finch, Annie. "Metrical Diversity." The Body of Poetry, 84-92
  23. ^ Finch, Annie. "Preface." The Encyclopedia of Scotland, xi
  24. ^ G.M. Palmer, Review of Among the Goddesses, "Strong Verse", Feb.2012
  25. ^ Keyes, Claire. "Annie Finch." Scribners American Writers Series 2009, 00
  26. ^ "Readers Guide to Calendars", Tupelo Press, 2010
  27. ^ Finch, Annie. "Annie Finch." Contemporary Authors 146, 150

External links[edit]