Head Off and Split by Micky Finney
The poems in Nikky Finney’s breathtaking new collection Head Off and Split sustain a sensitive and intense dialogue with emblematic figures and events in African American life: from civil rights matriarch Rosa Parks to former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, from a brazen girl strung out on lightning to a terrified woman abandoned on a rooftop during Hurricane Katrina.
Finney’s poetic voice is defined by an intimacy that holds a soft yet exacting eye on the erotic, on uncanny political and family events, like her mother’s wedding waltz with South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond, and then again on the heartbreaking hilarity of an American president’s final State of the Union address.
Artful and intense, Finney’s poems ask us to be mindful of what we fraction, fragment, cut off, dice, dishonour, or throw away, powerfully evoking both the lawless and the sublime.
The following verses come from her poem for Rosa Parks- “Red Velvet” :
You cannot keep messing with a sweet-looking
Black woman who knows her way around velvet.
A woman who can take cotton and gabardine,
seersucker and silk, swirl tapestry, and hang
boiled wool for the house curtains, to the very
millimeter. A woman made of all this never to
be taken for granted, never to be asked to move
to the back of anything, never ever to be arrested.
A woman who believes she is worthy of every
thing possible. Godly. Grace. Good. Whether you
believe it or not, she has not come to Earth to play
Ring Around Your Rosie on your rolling
circus game of public transportation.
Head Off and Split is beautiful because it’s complex without being overly confusing or wordy. Eloquent is the first word that comes to mind when perusing this collection of poems. The second word is lyrical, as most of her poems have that music like quality. This book of poems is smart, funny, creative, candid and historical.