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Nikky Finney Recommends...

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Posted 3.02.11

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“When I was eight years old my mother found me beneath my younger brother's crib in the fetal position and sweating. I was sick with a terrible fever. But, as she reports, I was also smiling. I learned, in that fever-rich moment, how to move through space and time—unafraid, untethered—toward some kind of surprise. That dance with surprise is why I write. And the fever of dedicated drift has taught me much about how to push through my writing. Breathe—in and out—levitate, trust. Sometimes, to get this moment back, I would ask Daddy if I could stretch out in the curved back window of his silver Buick 225. While he smoked and hummed in the front seat (and never drove over twenty miles per hour), his Buick moved beneath oak and loblolly pine, and I would stare up and stretch into the fusion of spirit and mind, reentering the sweet cave of my imagination. Today one of the final acts of my revision process, when I can't seem to work it out at the desk, is to grab my poem, timer, pad, and pencil and head for my car. I place them in the passenger seat. I set the timer, then head for the highway—a road not too big, not too small, something steady and even, where I never have to think about stopping for lights or breaking for traffic. I drive for one hour only. No music. Just the air outside and the sound of the poem rambling about in my head, searching for balance, ascension, the break of the fever. The forward movement of the car is meditative and my final act of faith. One hour passes and the timer goes off. I turn the car around. Usually, before I get back home, I have made some decision about a line, phrase, title, or epigraph that I could not make while sitting still.”
Nikky Finney, author of Head Off & Split (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2011)

Reader Comments

  • Danielle Notaro says...

    Thanks for sharing this, Nikky. I love your story and can relate to it on a few levels. It's funny. I just uploaded a poem entitled Glossy Americana on You Tube that came to me while driving. If you'd like to hear it here's the link:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/danpeak?feature=mhum

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