cover image Love Child’s Hotbed of Occa-sional Poetry: Poems & Artifacts

Love Child’s Hotbed of Occa-sional Poetry: Poems & Artifacts

Nikky Finney. Northwestern Univ., $29.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8101-4201-5

National Book Award–winner Finney (Head Off & Split) returns with her first collection in a decade, artfully interweaving memories from her life with episodes from throughout black history. A number of these poems are either “occasional” poems, written for occasions such as Smith College recognizing its first black graduate, or “hotbeds,” short and intense prose poems. In these, Finney reflects on a first trip to Africa—“O Motherland, I am hurtling to you through the sweet black night,” and her childhood in South Carolina—“We are children fat with Newberry summers and we will have cabbage for dinner whether we like it or not.” Finney frequently explores how black men and women built America, metaphorically and literally, as in “The Thinking Men,” a poem about the enslaved builders of Wofford College who were not permitted an education themselves. The collection is filled with images of ephemera, including a Valentine note from the poet’s father, and a 1985 flier for a reading she gave at a Kroger bookstore. Finney’s skillful, sweeping epic ambitiously connects personal and public history. (Apr.)