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, New Rochelle, New York) is an American poet and writer. Dictionary of Literary Biography names her "one of the central figures in contemporary American poetry" for her role, as poet and critic, in the contemporary reclamation of poetic meter and form.[1] Finch earned a English from Yale University, M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Houston, and Ph.D from Stanford University with a focus on poetry and prosody, and was been awarded the 1990 Robert Fitzgerald Award for her lifetime contribution to the art of versification. She has published eighteen books including poetry, poetics, and anthologies. A practitioner of earth-centered spirituality, Annie Finch considers the role of a metrical poet to be a sacred calling, writing in the preface of her selected poems that she considers her poems and verse plays to be "spells" that heal and raise consciousness through form, meter, and rhythm.[2]

Early life[edit]

In "Desks," an autobiographical essay in 'The Body of Poetry', Finch describes her childhood in an eccentric intellectual and artistic family and claims that her mother's poetry and her father's library of literature, philosophy, and religion influenced her work.[3] An interview in American Poetry Review describes how a year spent on a spiritual pilgrimage through Europe and the Middle East with her family at the age of six affected her sense of language as incantation.[4] The year after graduating from Yale, Finch self-published and performed her first book of poetry, the experimental longpoem The Encyclopedia of Scotland, in 1982.[5] She continued to pursue poetic theater in her MA program in creative writing at the University of Houston, where her thesis director was Ntozake Shange. Her doctoral studies at Stanford University focused on feminist literary theory, poetics, and cultural studies, culminating in the publication of her landmark essay "Dickinson and Patriarchal Meter: A Theory of Metrical Codes" in PMLA.

Poetic career[edit]

Finch's poetry first found its first national readership 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."[6] Her third book, Calendars (Tupelo Press, 2003), was shortlisted for the Foreword Poetry Book of the Year.[7] The Readers Guide released by Tupelo Press in 2010 notes 15 different meters in the book, characterized by even more formal virtuosity than her earlier work [8][9] Henry Taylor noted Finch's differences from the usual school of New Formalist poets in a review.[10] Experimental poet Ron Silliman compared Finch to Robert Duncan and Bernadette Mayer, saying of Finch, "her loyalty is to the language. She gets it.".[11]

Among the Goddesses: An Epic Libretto in Seven Dreams combines elements of opera libretto and epic poem to tell a story of abortion and goddess-centered spirituality. It received strong reviews and was awarded the 2012 Sarasvati Award for Poetry from the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology. .[12][13] '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.[14] 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 poems for public occasions include the 2010 Phi Beta Kappa Poem for Yale University, the keynote poem for the Inauguration of the Women's Poetry Timeline at the National Museum for Women in the Arts, and 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.[15] Her 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]

Critical Work and Teaching[edit]

Much of Finch's poetry criticism centers on meter and 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.[18] Books such as An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art, coedited with Kathrine Varnes, and A Poet's Craft: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Sharing Your Poetry, which includes a guide to writing in meter and has been called "nothing less than an MFA program in 600 pages", are assigned widely in university writing programs.[19][20] In the title essay of her book of essays The Body of Poetry, Finch connects the use of poetic meter and form with Goddess spirituality. .[21]

Finch has taught writing as faculty member at New College of California, Miami University, Stonecoast MFA Program, and other colleges. She has been a visiting writer at numerous colleges and taught for many years on the faculty at the annual West Chester Poetry Conference. In 2015 she joined the faculty at Poetry by the Sea. In 1997, she started the Discussion of Women Poets listserv, known as Wom-Po, and facilitated the community until 2004 when she delegated the role to poet Amy King. In 2015 she founded an online poetic community and magazine centered on formal poetic craft and spirituality, Poetry Witch.[22]

Musical and Theatrical Collaborations and Performance[edit]

A number of composers have set Finch's poetry to music. Her opera libretto, Marina, based on the life of poet Marina Tsvetaeva, was produced by American Opera Projects in 2003 with music by Deborah Drattell, directed by Anne Bogart, and with the lead sung by Lauren Flanigan. A libretto version of her epic poem "Among the Goddesses" is interwoven into the narrative version in the 2010 edition of the poem.[12] In 2012 Finch's multimedia verse play Wolf Song was produced at Mayo Street Arts in Portland, Maine.

Earth-Centered Spirituality[edit]

Themes and images in Finch's work have been inspired by earth-centered spirituality. Eve is organized around a series of poems on ancient Goddesses, and Calendars has a framework of pagan holidays. 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."[23] In an interview, Finch stated, "My own poetry has long been heading in a deeply emotional and often spiritual direction. Some of my poems are lyric, some narrative, some dramatic, and some meditative, but all are concerned with the mystery of the embodied sacred, whether in relationships with nature or other people, or with spiritual issues more directly.".[24]

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]

  • 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].
  • 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. (Translation).
  • 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 Ear: A Handbook of Meter and Form. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013.
  • A Poet’s Craft: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Shaping Your 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 Chapbooks[edit]

  • Goddess Poems. Poetry Witch Press 2015 (self-published).
  • The Voice Was the Sea. Voices From the American Land, 2013.
  • Shadow-Bird: From the Lost Poems. Dusie Kollektiv/Ugly Duckling Presse, 2009.
  • Annie Finch's Greatest Hits: Poems 1975-2005. Pudding House, 2006.
  • Home Birth. Dos Madres Press, 2004.
  • Season Poems. Calliope Press, 2002.
  • Catching the Mermother. Aralia Press, 1996.
  • The Encyclopedia of Scotland: A Libretto. Caribou Press, 1982 (self-published).

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. "Preface." Spells: New and Selected Poems, xi
  3. ^ Finch, Annie. "Desks." The Body of Poetry, 106-110
  4. ^ Giardino, Alix. "Casting Spells: An Interview With Annie Finch." American Poetry Review, January 2013
  5. ^ Finch, Annie. "Preface." The Encyclopedia of Scotland, xi
  6. ^ MacDonald, C.G. "Review of Eve," Poetry Flash, Nov/Dec. 1998
  7. ^ Small Press Distribution Catalog. "Calendars,"
  8. ^ Tupelo Press Catalog, "Calendars", 2010"
  9. ^ "Readers Guide to Calendars", Tupelo Press, 2010
  10. ^ Taylor, Henry, "Eve by Annie Finch", Washington Times, October 14, 1997"
  11. ^ Silliman, Ron. "Review of Calendars by Annie Finch." Silliman's Blog, October 13, 2002
  12. ^ a b G.M. Palmer, Review of Among the Goddesses, "Strong Verse", Feb.2012
  13. ^ Midwest Book Review, "Among the Goddesses", Feb. 2011
  14. ^ Finch, Annie. "Preface." Spells: New and Selected Poems, iv
  15. ^ Finch, Annie. "The Naming." "Musings Blog," Annie Finch's website
  16. ^ Harriet blog, Poetry Foundation,
  17. ^ Harriet blog, Poetry Foundation,
  18. ^ Finch, Annie. "Metrical Diversity." The Body of Poetry, 84-92
  19. ^ Brock, J. "Review of An Exaltation of Forms, Choice, September 2002
  20. ^ Palmer, G.M. "Why We Read: Spells by Annie Finch, The Critical Flame, September 2013
  21. ^ Finch, Annie. "The Body of Poetry" The Body of Poetry, 84
  22. ^ Raab, Zara. "Poet and Scholar Annie Finch in Conversation."
  23. ^ Keyes, Claire. "Annie Finch." Scribners American Writers Series 2009, 00
  24. ^ Finch, Annie. "An Interview with Annie Finch." Poemeleon[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]