Nikky Finney at Dodge: A Recap

I am somewhat disappointed in myself for not typing up my notes from Dodge sooner. But maybe this is the right time. The kids don’t understand Daylight Savings Time (*sigh*), so I’m up, using my time before the day gets going.

These notes are from three weeks ago from the Geraldine R. Dodge Festival, a Sunday morning craft talk with Nikky Finney. Here are a few gems (mostly paraphrased) in bullet points.

  • Why do you avoid certain subjects in your writing? If you are, then there is something to look at in that equation.
  • My models were people who understood work. We seem to be moving away from the sacredness of work.
  • Epigraphs can be a way into a poem. Sometimes I like to come in through the window, not a door.
  • It is really important that we not look away. Not avoid. As a poet, it’s my job to see the hard thing, try to get it right.
  • On language: I’ll use a phrase I use often in another form, through enjambment or hyphens. “I love hyphens.”
  • Learn then rules and then break them.
  • You want to innovate and steal, but you want to be inventive.
  • Writers keep growing if they keep failing. Writing is about the whole body, the whole self, changing and acquiring.
  • Circle your verbs in your drafts. Are your verbs lifting your lines?
  • You have to write often. I do not believe there is this thing called writer’s block. Take the words out of your vocabulary! You have to fight your way through it. You have to hand yourself over to the process.
  • How do I find time to write? You’ll never find time, you’ll have to make time. You have to find where you can build that house. I love 4-7 a.m. This is the last hour of safety. I set up what I am going to work on the night before. I get up still in the dream state. Don’t get that get that first cup of coffee, don’t wake up fully.


Susan Rich said…
Thanks for this, Jan! I want to share this with my students!

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