Annie Finch is a poet, performer, editor, critic, teacher, nonfiction writer, and verse playwright, author of more than twenty books and chapbooks of poetry, plays, translation, literary essays, textbooks and anthologies. The most recent of her six books of poetry is Spells: New and Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in journals including Kenyon Review, Harvard Review, Paris Review, Partisan Review, Poetry, Agni, Jacket, Fulcrum, Prairie Schooner, and Yale Review, and in anthologies such as The Norton Anthology of World Poetry, The Penguin Book of the Sonnet, and The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century American Poetry.
Born in New Rochelle, New York in 1956, Annie Finch earned a BA, focusing on poetry, magna cum laude from Yale University with Distinction in English and an MA in Creative Writing, emphasis in verse drama, from the University of Houston, under the supervision of poet and playwright Ntozake Shange. She completed her Ph.D at Stanford University with a dissertation on the semiotics of meter in free-verse poetry, later published as The Ghost of Meter (University of Michigan Press, 1993).
Finch’s first nationally-distributed book of poetry, Eve (1997) was praised by Carolyn Kizer, writing in the Michigan Quarterly Review, for its “wild energy held in check by form.” The book was a finalist for numerous awards including the National Poetry Series and the Yale Younger Poets Award. Like Eve, Calendars (2003) is woven around a sequence of linked poems. Calendars was shortlisted for the Foreword Poetry Book of the Year Award. Reviewers of both books noted the incantatory power of the poems and their paradoxical complexity; in the words of Ron Silliman, "Calendars is . . .filled with poems whose directness and simplicity are deceptive — they have depths and delights that appear to go on forever.” Finch has also published translations from French, Ancient Greek, Anglo-Saxon, and Russian poetry. Her translation of poetry of French Renaissance poet Louise Labe (2006) was published by the University of Chicago Press and received Honorable Mention from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women.
Spells: New and Selected Poems (2013) spans forty years of work, including recent poems, a trove of previously unpublished poems from the 1980s, and selections from previous books of poetry, translations, and verse dramas, much of it concerned with the themes of nature, relationships, the body, and spirituality that are central to Finch’s work. An essay in American Writer explains, “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.” Charles Altieri has written, “Annie Finch is a major poet, one of very few who understand how lyric lives in part because it can speak for something larger than the ego. She understands better than any contemporary I know what poetry feels like and sounds like when it is completely at home in its traditions.”
Finch's poetic collaborations with theater, opera, dance, music, and visual art that have been produced at venues including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Spoleto Festival, Chicago Art Institute, and Carnegie Hall. Her opera libretto Marina premiered from American Opera Projects in New York, directed by Anne Bogart with music by Deborah Drattell. Among the Goddesses: An Epic Libretto in Seven Dreams (2010), called by J.D. McClatchy “a ravishing contribution” to the art of opera, received the Sarasvati Award from the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology. Finch produced her multimedia poetic collaboration "Wolf Song' in Portland, Maine in 2012 and premiered her one-woman collaborative multimedia show Five Directions" there in 2015, directed by Alzenira Glick (Lady Zen).
Annie Finch has also been influential as a poetry critic and editor. Her twelve books on poetics include A Formal Feeling Comes: Poems in Form by Contemporary Women (1993), An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art (with Kathrine Varnes, 1997), A Poet’s Craft: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Sharing Your Poetry (2013) and Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters (with Alexandra Oliver, 2014). As she writes in her collection of essays The Body of Poetry: Essays on Women, Form, and the Poetic Self (2005), “This collection documents my recognition of my own identity as a "postmodern poetess" through redefinitions of key concepts of poetic tradition, form, and the poetic self and through the development of a new kind of formal poetics that I have called at various times radical formalism, tribal postmodernism, or a poetics of thealogy. Under whatever label, this collection, like my poems, aims to give back some of the world's lost heart by reclaiming the body of poetry.” Her work on the aesthetic traditions of women’s poetry, such as the essay “Confessions of a Postmodern Poetess,” has been widely cited, and in 1998 she founded the international online community WOM-PO (Discussion of Women's Poetry Listserv), now based at Nassau Community College and moderated by Amy King. Much of Finch’s critical work centers on poetic form, and in 2010 she was awarded the Robert Fitzgerald Award for her lifetime contribution to the art of prosody.
Finch has presented her poetry across North America and in Europe and Africa. Her work has been published in Chinese, Farsi, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Malayalam, Malaysian, and Vietnamese. She has produced a number of commissioned and occasional poems, including the 2011 Phi Beta Kappa poem for Yale University and poems to honor Eve Ensler's One Billion Rising and the launch of the Women's Poetry Timeline at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Her poem "Names" is installed in the New York's Cathedral of St. John Divine as part of a memorial to commemorate the September 11 attacks, and her poem "Summer Solstice Chant" was distributed to government officials of the Republic of the Congo and Democratic Republic of the Congo by the University of Iowa International Programs on a goodwill mission of the U.S. State Department.
The Dictionary of Literary Biography calls Annie Finch a “central figure” whose work “challenges the various orthodoxies of contemporary American poetry . . . In a milieu shaped by the boundaries between avant-garde, narrative, formal and performance poetics, Finch brings together all of these traditions in her musical poetry, exploratory anthologies, and probing theoretical work.” Finch’s poetry and criticism have played a major role in recent feminist poetics and reinvigorated the discussion and practice of formalism for the postmodern era. Uniting all of her work is a conception of poetry as incantatory and performative, marking the deepest meanings of our lives through the body as well as the mind."
Annie Finch's awards include the Sarasvati Award for Poetry, the Maine Women Writers Award for Poetry, and the Robert Fitzgerald Award as well as fellowships to the Wesleyan Writers Conference. She has taught at universities and poetry conferences across the country and served as Director of the Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing from 2004 to 2013. She now teaches independently, online, as an artist-in-residence and visitor to writing programs and conferences, and as a member of the faculty of the St. Francis College low-residency MFA in Creative Writing in Brooklyn.
I was born on Halloween to a progressive political and artistic family. My mother was a poet and artist, my father a professor of philosophy. My lineage is Nordic and Celtic and goes back on both sides to the Mayflower, with ancestors including artists and sculptors, witches accused at Salem, suffragettes, socialists, Quakers, pacifists, and women writers. I spent second grade with my family travelling to spiritual sites around Europe and the Middle Eat in a Vokswagon van, and started writing poetry when I got home. Twenty years later, I discovered paganism in San Francisco and became a fully-empowered witch in 1999.