Annie Finch is a poet and performer, a teacher and a speaker. She is the author of seven books of poetry, including The Poetry Witch Little Book of Spells, Calendars (finalist for the National Poetry Series), Spells: New and Selected Poems, and the epic poem Among the Goddesses: An Epic Libretto in Seven Dreams (Sarasvati Award from ASWM, 2012). Other works include books and anthologies on poetic craft, a poetry textbook, verse drama, theater collaboration, opera libretto, and the first major anthology of literature on abortion. Finch’s poems have appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The New York Times, and The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century American Poetry, and she has performed her Poetry Witch Ritual Theater pieces on three continents. She holds a B.A. from Yale and a Ph.D from Stanford and has lectured at universities including Berkeley, Toronto, Harvard, and Oxford. Annie Finch is the Director of PoetryWitchCommunity.com, where she teaches poetry, meter, and her own system of self-transformation, The Magic of Rhythmically Writing.
Annie Finch was born in New Rochelle, NY on Halloween, 1956. Her parents were pacifists who met at a lecture by poet W.H. Auden. Annie attended public schools until age 14, when she enrolled at Oakwood, a Quaker school in Poughkeepsie NY, and then studied filmmaking at Simons Rock Early College. She graduated from Yale University magna cum laude in English in 1979, earned an MA in poetry and verse drama from the University of Houston in 1983 under the supervision of thesis advisor Ntozake Shange, and completed a Ph.D from Stanford University with a special area of Versification in 1990. She taught on the graduate creative writing faculties of New School of San Francisco, University of Northern Iowa, and Miami University, served for a decade as full professor and Director of the Stonecoast MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine, and now teaches on the MFA faculty of St. Francis College in Brooklyn. In 2020 she founded Poetry Witch Community where she teaches a variety of courses on poetry, meter, scansion, and her original system of self-transformation through rhythmical writing.
Annie Finch's poems have been published in Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, Hudson Review, American Scholar, Yale Review, Partisan Review, Poetry, Paris Review, The New York Times, and numerous other periodicals and in dozens of anthologies including Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, Penguin Book of the Sonnet, Norton Anthology of World Poetry, and The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century American Poetry. She has published eighteen books including poetry, verse drama, translation, literary essays, poetry-writing textbooks, and anthologies. Her books of poetry include Eve (finalist, National Poetry Series and Yale Series of Younger Poets), Calendars (finalist, National Poetry Series, short-listed Foreword Poetry Book of the Year Award), Among the Goddesses (Sarasvati Award from ASWM), and Spells: New and Selected Poems. She has also published books on poetics including A Poet's Craft, The Ghost of Meter, and The Body of Poetry: Essays on Women, Form, and the Poetic Self, all from University of Michigan Press. Her eight edited or coedited anthologies of poetics include A Formal Feeling Comes: Poems in Form by Contemporary Women and An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art, as well as Villanelles and Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters in the Everymans Series from Penguin-Random House. She is the editor of Choice Words: Writers on Abortion, the first major literary anthology on abortion (Haymarket Books, 2020). Finch's poems are also collected in a number of limited edition and micro-press books and in The Poetry Witch Little Book of Spells (Wesleyan U.P., 2019).
The New Yorker, New York Times, Writer's Almanac, and San Francisco Chronicle have quoted Finch's poems and remarks about poetry, and she has been spotlighted in extensive interviews in AWP Chronicle and American Poetry Review. She has done numerous radio and TV interviews including NPR, Voice of America, and PBS, with poetry featured on MTV’s Def Poetry Jam. Garrison Keillor has noted Finch's birthday on October 31 on the “Writers Almanac” and quoted her about poetry and magic. Finch’s poem “Winter Solstice Chant” was featured in the Sunday New York Times in an article about the spiritual meaning of the solstice, Kwame Dawes selected her poem "Edge, Atlantic, July" for the Poetry Foundation's American Life in Poetry column, and the Academy of American Poets circulated her poem "Moon for Our Daughters" as the Poem-a-Day to over 300,000 readers via email and social media on the day after the 2016 election. On Brainpicker, Maria Popova called the poem “a breath of sanity and hope.”
The opera "Marina," based on the life of Marina Tsvetaeva, premiered from American Opera Projects with a libretto by Annie Finch and music by Deborah Drattell, directed by Anne Bogart. Finch's other poetic collaborations with theater, opera, dance, music, and visual art have been produced at venues including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Spoleto Festival, Chicago Art Institute, and Carnegie Hall. Her commissioned and occasional poems include the keynote poem for the launch of the Mezzo Cammin Women's Poetry Timeline at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, a Phi Beta Kappa poem for Yale University, and "Names," installed as part of the 9-11 Memorial at the Cathedral of St. John Divine in New York.
Annie Finch has also been influential as a literary critic. Her book The Ghost of Meter (1993) laid out a theory of metrical meanings in American free verse of which The Canadian Review of American Studies wrote, “Is there such a thing as American prosody? The question has puzzled many . . . but until Finch’s book no-one, I think, has contributed significantly to the discussion.” Timothy Morris, reviewing the book in Style, wrote, “ I would bet that a whole generation of critics will learn from Finch how to hear the poems they read.” Finch's essays on poetics are collected in The Body of Poetry: Essays on Women, Form, and the Poetic Self. Her groundbreaking work reimagining the aesthetic traditions of the “poetess,” particularly the essay “The Poetess in the World: Metaphor and Subjectivity in Lydia Sigourney’s Nature Poetry” (Legacy, 1987), is widely cited. In 1998 she founded the international online community WOM-PO (Discussion of Women's Poetry Listserv), a hub of discussion of women's poetics for a decade. Much of Finch’s critical work centers on reframing and redefining the role of poetic meter and form in contemporary poetry, and in 2010 she was awarded the Robert Fitzgerald Award for her lifetime contribution to the art of prosody. Finch's translations from Ancient Greek, Anglo-Saxon, Russian, and French are known for following the meter and other formal constraints of the originals, from Akhmatova's amphibrachs to the first translation of the complete poetry of French Renaissance poet Louise Labé to follow the original rhyme schemes University of Chicago Press, 2006).
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."
Addressing audiences at hundreds of events, Finch has offered talks and poetry performances at venues including A Room of Her Own, Columbia University, Emerging Women, Harvard University, Modern Matriarchal Studies, Notre Dame University, Stanford University, Oxford University, University of California at Berkeley, Yale University, and the Folger Shakespeare Library. She has appeared across the U.S. and in Canada, in England, Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, Greece, Ireland, Mexico, and Spain. Finch has been commissioned to write and perform poems including the 9-11 Memorial Poem now permanently installed in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC; Phi Beta Kappa poem at Yale University; and the opening poem for the Women’s Poetry Timeline at National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Annie Finch has held fellowships at the Stanford Humanities Center, Wesleyan Writers Conference, the Architecture and Spirituality Forum, and Cherry Hill Seminary where she was the inaugural artist in residence. She is an Emeritus Fellow of Black Earth Institute, taught on the English faculty of Miami University of Ohio and other universities, attaining the rank of tenured full professor, and served for a decade as Director of the Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Southern Maine. She has lectured, performed, and guest-taught at dozens of conferences and community centers and at universities including Harvard, U.C. Berkeley, and Oxford.
Finch's literary archive was purchased by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University in 2016.