Poetics of the Archive: An Evening with Nikky Finney and Robin Coste Lewis

National Book Award Winners Nikky Finney (Head Off & Split, 2011 Poetry Winner) and Robin Coste Lewis (Voyage of the Sable Venus, 2015 Poetry Winner) excavate and reimagine family and historical archives as poetry in their recent books Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry and To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness. The authors join National Book Award Winner Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming, 2014 Young People’s Literature Winner) in conversation on the careful work of communal archives and the power of Black stories amidst continued book banning.

Presented in partnership with the National Book Foundation and Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

This is an official 2023 Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend event

Nikky Finney is the author of On Wings Made of GauzeRiceThe World Is Round; and Head Off & Split, which won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2011. Her new collection of poems, Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry, was released in 2020. Finney is Carolina Distinguished Professor at University of South Carolinain Columbia where she is also Director of the Ernest A. Finney, Jr. Cultural Arts Center.

Jacqueline Woodson is the author of many books for young people and adults. She is the recipient of a number of awards including a 2023 E. B. White Award, a 2023 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship, and a 2020 Hans Christian Andersen Award. Her memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming was a National Book Award winner. Adult novels include Red At The Bone and Another Brooklyn.

Robin Coste Lewis is the former poet laureate for the city of Los Angeles, where she now lives and works. In 2015, her first book of poems, Voyage of the Sable Venus, which examined the fraught history of art, gender, and race, won The National Book Award in poetry, marking the first time a debut by an African American had ever won the prize in the Foundation's history, and the first time a debut collection of poetry had won the award since 1974. The images in Intimacy also appear in her new book of poetry, To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness (2022), published by Knopf, which recently won an NAACP Award in Poetry and PEN Award in poetry. In 2021, she was the Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome, and recently a Ford Foundation Scholar-in-Residence at the Museum of Modern Art.

The mission of the National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards, is to celebrate the best literature published in the United States, expand its audience, and ensure that books have a prominent place in our culture. The Foundation approaches this work from four programmatic angles: Awards & Honors recognize exceptional authors, advocates, literature, and literary programs; Education & Access initiatives foster a lifelong passion for books in young and adult readers; Public Programs bring acclaimed authors to communities nationwide to engage in conversations about books and showcase the power of literature as a tool for understanding our world; and Service to the Literary Field, provides support to the national literary ecosystem. Information on all of the Foundation’s programs can be found online at nationalbook.org.