Poet Finney wins $100,000 prize for her achievements


NEW YORK - Nikky Finney has won the Wallace Stevens Award, a $100,000 lifetime achievement honor presented by the Academy of American Poets. Judges praised Finney, known for such collections as "Head Off & Split" and "Rice," for her "fierce moral conviction" and as a bard "for the African diaspora."

Finney's prize was among dozens announced Wednesday by the poets academy, with money exceeding $1.2 million. Much of that amount was distributed among 23 state and local poets laureate, from Rosemarie Dombrowski in Phoenix to Angelo Geter in Rock Hill, South Carolina, all recipients of laureate fellowships "in recognition of their literary merit and to support their respective civic programs over the course of a year."

Hanif Abdurraqib received the $25,000 Lenore Marshall prize for "Fortune for Your Disaster," given for the best book of poetry released in the previous year. Carmen Gimenez Smith was given the Academy of American Poets Fellowship for "distinguished poetic achievement," for which she receives a $25,000 stipend and a residency in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Geoffrey Brock won $10,000 for his translation of the Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli's "Last Dream," and Threa Almontaser was given the Walt Whitman Award for her debut "The Wild Fox of Yemen," a $5,000 honor which includes publication of her book by Graywolf Press and a six-week residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Italy.

The in-person residencies are contingent on the status of the coronavirus pandemic.

Finney grew up in Sumter during the civil rights movement and is a daughter of former S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Ernest A. Finney Jr., who was the first Black chief justice in South Carolina since Reconstruction after the Civil War, and Frances Finney. She is sister to Ernest "Chip" Finney III, who is solicitor for the Third Judicial Circuit, which includes Sumter, Clarendon, Lee and Williamsburg counties.