Celebrating National Poetry Month with Nikky Finney and Paul Muldoon


When I was asked to introduce Nikky Finney and Paul Muldoon for the Arts & Letters Program at the Dallas Museum of Art, I asked myself, how do you compress a 30 year friendship into a two minute introduction? “We were girls together” was our first thought upon seeing each other after many years. Nikky Finney and I met in Atlanta in the mid 1980’s in Toni Cade Bambara’s bright yellow living room as part of the Pamoja Writer’s Workshop. Nikky gave me pointers on how to deliver a poem and impressed me by having Nikki Giovanni as her mentor. By the time she won the 2011 National Book Award for her collection of poems, Head Off and Split, she had spilled a lot of ink in her dedication to poetry. I met Paul Muldoon once. We had dinner together with Joyce Carol Oates at Princeton where he teaches. My friend Veronica Chambers invited me to a reading there. I knew he wouldn’t remember, but I knew at the time, it was a moment to mark. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, “Moy Sand and Gravel”. Nikky and Paul were each commissioned to write a poem inspired by an art work in the DMA collection. Listening to two masterful poets was a great way to celebrate National Poetry Month. Lucky me, I topped off the evening sharing a meal of Spanish tapas at Sangria with the poets. Sublime. Marking delicious moments.

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About Shay Youngblood

Shay Youngblood is the author of novels, plays, essays and poetry. Her work has appeared in Oprah, Essence, Black Book and Good Housekeeping Magazines. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including a Pushcart Prize for fiction, a Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, several NAACP Theater Awards, and a New York Foundation for the Arts, Sustained Achievement Award. Her short stories have been performed at Symphony Space and recorded for NPR's Selected Shorts. Ms. Youngblood received her MFA in Creative Writing from Brown University. She has worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in the eastern Caribbean, as an au pair, artist's model, and poet's helper in Paris, and as a creative writing instructor in a Rhode Island women's prison. She was a Japan U.S. Friendship Commission Creative Artist Fellow (2011) and Dallas Museum of Art, Writer in Residence (2013).