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Annie Finch (born October 31, 1956, New Rochelle, New York) is an American poet, writer, and performance artist. Central themes of her poetry, memoir, and nonfiction include feminism and women-centered spirituality.

Annie Finch
Born (1956-10-31) October 31, 1956 (age 62)
New Rochelle, New York, USA
OccupationPoet, writer, performer, speaker, teacher, editor, critic, playwright, librettist, performance artist
EducationB.A., M.A., Ph.D
Alma materYale University, Stanford University
Home townNew Rochelle, NY
GenrePoetry, poetry translation, poetics, nonfiction, memoir, verse drama
SubjectWomen-centered spirituality, abortion, witches, Goddess
Literary movementNew formalism, feminist poetry
Notable worksCalendars(2003), Among the Goddesses(2010)
Notable awardsSarasvati Award for Poetry, Robert Fitzgerald Award, Finalist, National Poetry Series, Finalist, Yale Series of Younger Poets, Shortlisted,Foreword Book of the Year



Finch was born in New Rochelle, New York. In the essay "Desks," she explores how the poetry of her mother, poet and artist Margaret Rockwell Finch [1] and the ideas of her father, philosophy scholar and pacifist Henry L. Finch, influence her work.[2] Raised a Quaker, Finch was educated at public schools, then at Oakwood Friends School and Simon's Rock Early College, and graduated magna cum laude in 1979 from Yale University. In New York's East Village, she self-published and performed her first book The Encyclopedia of Scotland. She earned an MA in creative writing at the University of Houston in 1985 with poet and playwright Ntozake Shange as her thesis advisor in verse drama, and a Ph.D from Stanford University in 1990.


Finch's first poetry collection, Eve (Story Line Press, 1997), was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Her second book, Calendars (Tupelo Press, 2003), is structured around poems originally written for ritual performance to celebrate the pagan Wheel of the Year. Calendars was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and was shortlisted for the Foreword Poetry Book of the Year award.[3] Her third book, Among the Goddesses: An Epic Libretto in Seven Dreams (Red Hen Press, 2010), a hybrid work about abortion combining narrative and dramatic structure, received the 2012 Sarasvati Award for Poetry. The Encyclopedia of Scotland was reissued in 2010 by Salt Publishing in the U.K.[4]; in the same year, Carnegie Mellon University Press reissued Eve in the Contemporary Classics Poetry Series. A selected volume, Spells: New and Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 2012), collects poems from Finch's previous books along with previously unpublished poems.

Finch's poems are collected in anthologies including the Penguin Book of The Sonnet and Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century American Poetry. Her poems for public occasions include the memorial poem for the September 11 attacks accompanying the commemorative sculpture by Meredith Bergmann installed in New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine.[5] She has written that she believes it is part of her calling as a poet to write occasional poetry on topics of personal and cultural importance. [6]

Verse plays, Opera, Collaborations, Ritual Poetic TheaterEdit

Finch's first, self-published book of poetry The Encyclopedia of Scotland (1983) is a libretto which Finch performed as ritual theater with live music and a theatrical procession. In 1985, unable to find a poet on the University of Houston creative writing faculty to supervise her MA thesis in poetry, she wrote a thesis of three verse dramas with Ntozake Shange as advisor. Other dramatic works for the stage include Among the Goddesses: An Epic Libretto in Seven Dreams (Red Hen Press, 2010) and Wolf Song, which premiered at Portland, Maine's Mayo Street Arts in 2012. Both plays are multimedia productions with music, dance, puppets, and masks. [7]

Finch's opera libretto Marina, based on the life of poet Marina Tsvetaeva, was produced by American Opera Projects in 2003 with music by Deborah Drattell, directed by Anne Bogart, and sung by Lauren Flanigan.[8]

Composers including Stefania de Kennessey, Matthew Harris, and Dale Trumbore have set Finch's poems to music. Trumbore's settings have won several awards and some have been published as sheet music. [9][10] [11][12]

Finch has also written and performed as "Poetry Witch" in several pieces she calls "ritual poetic theater", combining poetry and audience-interactive ritual. These include "Five Directions" (directed by Alzenira Quezada, Mayo Street Arts, 2012) and "Winter Solstice Dreams" (directed by Vera Beren, Deepak Homebase, 2018).[13]


Claire Keyes notes in Scribner's American Writers, "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."[14] In an interview Finch stated, "Some of my poems are lyric, some narrative, some dramatic, and some meditative, but all are concerned with the mystery of the embodied sacred.".[15] Finch writes in the preface of her 2013 collection Spells: New and Selected Poems that she considers her poems and verse plays to be "spells" whose rhythm and form invite readers "to experience words not just in the mind but in the body." [16]

Finch writes that she "came out as a witch" in 2010 by starting a blog called American Witch [17] She published several articles about earth-centered spirituality in The Huffington Post.


Finch's translation from French of the poetry of Louise Labé was published by University of Chicago Press, honored by the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women, and represented in the Norton Anthology of World Literature. Spells includes translations from Anglo-Saxon, Classical Greek, and Russian. In the preface to Spells Finch claims that the physical qualities of a poem such as meter and rhyme are central to her translation process.

Critical work and teachingEdit

Finch's first major critical essay, bringing together poetic form with postmodern and feminist theory, was published as "Dickinson and Patriarchal Meter: A Theory of Metrical Codes" in PMLA in 1987. The Ghost of Meter: Culture and Prosody in American Free Verse expands this work into a book on the meaning of meter in free verse poetry. Finch's essay collection The Body of Poetry explores various aspects of poetic form including translation and "Metrical Diversity". [18] [19] Her edited or coedited anthologies include A Formal Feeling Comes: Poems in Form by Contemporary Women, An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets on the Diversity of Their Art, Villanelles, and Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters. She has also authored a poetry-writing textbook, A Poet's Craft: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Sharing Your Poetry. [20][21]

Finch's 1987 article on metaphor and subjectivity in the poetry of Lydia Sigourney was the first to take a critical approach to the aesthetic of the sentimental woman poet based in the postmodern theory of the literary self. [22] In the essay collection The Body of Poetry: Essays on Women, Form, and the Poetic Self, Finch discusses this approach in more detail and names it "poetess poetics." [23] A subsequent essay on Sigourney was commissioned for Lydia Sigourney: Critical Essays and Cultural Views (2018), which also included Finch's elegaic poem for Sigourney.[24]

Finch has taught at writing conferences and on the creative writing and literature faculties of universities including Miami University and Stonecoast MFA Program, where she served as Director from 2004 to 2013. In 2017 she launched Healing Rhythms of Words Workshops, combining her expertise in rhythmical writing and psychological and spiritual growth. [25]


In a post on the Poetry Foundation blog, Finch explains that unlike many other female poets, she chooses to identify herself as a woman poet.[26] In the same essay she suggests this may be because her mother was a poet; her mother Margaret Rockwell Finch published four books of poetry, two of which Finch edited and arranged to publish. [27]

Feminist themes are central to Finch's poetry, from the themes of sex and love in The Encyclopedia of Scotland (1983) through the poems about goddesses and women's experience in Eve (1997), the poems on sex and childbirth in Calendars (2003), and the abortion narrative in Among the Goddesses (2010). In the preface to Spells: New and Selected Poems (2013), Finch writes, "Compiling this book has led me to appreciate how much I was inspired as a poet by coming of age during the feminist movement of the 1970s. Reading it has helped me undestand the ways I struggled over the years to throw off the burden of misogyny on my spiritual, psychological, intellectual, political, and poetic identities. My themes are often female-centered: sexuality; friendship; childbrith, breastfeeding, mothering, and abortion; sexism and incest; women's mythology and spirituality; and personal and cultural foremothers. I am proud to define myself as a woman poet ... my ambition is to create a body of work for a re-emerging matriarchal culture."[28]

Finch's feminism is also evident in her prose writing, editing, and literary organizing. Her first anthology A Formal Feeling Comes: Poems in Form by Contemporary Women (1993) collected poems and essays by contemporary women poets. The "metrical code," the central theory of her book of literary criticism The Ghost of Meter (1994), is cited in the article on "feminist poetics" by Elaine Showalter in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. [29] [30][31] Her essay collection The Body of Poetry: Essays on Women, Form, and the Poetic Self (2005) includes writings on women poets including Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Carolyn Kizer, Maxine Kumin, Audre Lorde, Lydia Sigourney, Sara Teasdale, and Phillis Wheatley, many based in feminist theory. In 1997, Finch founded the influential listserv Discussion of Women Poets (Wom-Po),which she facilitated until 2004.

In October 2016, anticipating the #MeToo movement, Finch became one of the first victims of sexual assault in the literary world to name names when she published a series of blog posts that named writers, editors, and other men who had sexually assaulted her during the course of her life as a woman writer. [32] [33]. In 2019 she launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the publication of Choice Words: Writers on Abortion, which the publisher, Haymarket Books, calls "the first major literary anthology about abortion."[34]

Critical ReceptionEdit

Finch's dedication to writing in meter and her role as a scholar, editor and critic of poetic form led many reviewers of her first books to classify her poetry within the movement known as New Formalism. Dictionary of Literary Biography named her "one of the central figures in contemporary American poetry" for her role in the reclamation of poetic form.[35] But reviewers soon noticed key differences between Finch's poetry and that of other new formalist poets. Henry Taylor, for example, claimed that Finch was not a typical new formalist because she did not focus on the realities of contemporary life,[36] and C.L. Rawlins focused on the incantatory use of form in Eve, writing, "Finch is a poet in her bones . . . . What she proves in Eve is that rhyme-and-meter isn't just a formerly fashionable sort of bondage, but a bioacoustic key to memory and emotion."[37]

Poet and critic Ron Silliman situated Finch in the context of experimental poetry, writing, "Annie Finch can't be a new formalist, precisely because she's passionate both about the new and about form. She is also one of the great risk-takers in contemporary poetry, right up there with Lee Ann Brown & Bernadette Mayer in her willingness to completely shatter our expectations as readers." [38] Silliman's idea about the qualities Finch's work shares with experimental poetry was validated with the publication of Spells in 2013. Spells includes 35 of the "lost poems" composed by Finch between 1985 and 1989. In the preface to Spells, she describes these as "metrical and experimental poems [that]. . . did not find their audience until the avant-garde's rediscovery of formal poetic strategies just a few years ago."[39]

Reviewing Calendars, poet and Goddess scholar Patricia Monaghan was one of the first critics to articulate the intersection of formal poetics and spirituality in Finch's work, writing, "Annie Finch is a traditionalist. Not in the way the word is commonly used . . . but in a strange experimental way. An oracle, an ecstatic maenad: that is the kind of traditional poet Annie Finch is." [40]

Honors and AwardsEdit

  • 2012 Among the Goddesses Awarded Sarasvati Award for Poetry by the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology
  • 2009 Robert Fitzgerald Prosody Award
  • 2008 Fellowship, Black Earth Institute
  • 2006 Complete Poetry of Louise Labe Awarded Honorable Mention for a translation in the field of women's studies by the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women
  • 2005 Alumni Award, University of Houston Creative Writing Program
  • 2003 Calendars shortlisted for the Foreword Poetry Book of the Year Award
  • 2002 Calendars a finalist for the National Poetry Series
  • 1996 Eve a finalist for the Yale Series of Younger Poets
  • 1996 Eve a finalist for the National Poetry Series
  • 1993 Nicholas Roerich Fellow, Wesleyan Writers Conference


Books of PoetryEdit

  • Spells: New and Selected Poems. Wesleyan University Press, 2012.
  • Among the Goddesses: An Epic Libretto in Seven Dreams Red Hen Press, 2010. [Winner, Sarasvati Award for Poetry, Association for the Study of Women and Mythology].
  • The Complete Poetry and Prose of Louise Labé: A Bilingual Edition. Edited with Critical Introductions and Prose Translations by Deborah Lesko Baker and Poetry Translations by Annie Finch. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. (Translation).
  • Calendars. Tupelo Press, 2003. [Shortlisted, Foreword Poetry Book of the Year Award for 2003]. Second edition with Audio CD and downloadable Readers' Companion, 2008.
  • Eve. Story Line Press. 1997. [Finalist, National Poetry Series, Yale Series of Younger Poets, Brittingham Prize]. Reissued by Carnegie Mellon University Press, Classic Contemporaries Poetry Series, 2010.
  • The Encyclopedia of Scotland. Caribou Press, 1982; Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2005.


  • A Poet's Ear: A Handbook of Meter and Form. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013.
  • A Poet's Craft: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Shaping Your Poems. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012.
  • The Body of Poetry: Essays on Women, Form, and the Poetic Self. Poets on Poetry Series, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.
  • The Ghost of Meter: Culture and Prosody in American Free Verse. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993. Paperback edition with new preface, 2001.

Poetry ChapbooksEdit

  • Goddess Poems. Poetry Witch Press, 2015.
  • The Voice Was the Sea. Voices From the American Land, 2013.
  • Shadow-Bird: From the Lost Poems. Dusie Kollektiv/Ugly Duckling Presse, 2009.
  • Annie Finch's Greatest Hits: Poems 1975-2005. Pudding House, 2006.
  • Home Birth. Dos Madres Press, 2004.
  • Season Poems. Calliope Press, 2002.
  • Catching the Mermother. Aralia Press, 1996.
  • The Encyclopedia of Scotland: A Libretto. Caribou Press, 1982 (self-published).

Opera LibrettiEdit

  • Among the Goddesses: An Epic Libretto in Seven Dreams. Red Hen Press, 2010
  • Marina. American Opera Projects, DR2 Theater, New York, 2003.

Edited booksEdit

  • Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters. Coeditor with Alexandra Oliver. Random House: Everymans Library, 2015.
  • Villanelles. Coeditor with Marie-Elizabeth Mali. Random House: Everymans Library, 2012.
  • Multiformalisms: Postmodern Poetics of Form. Coeditor with Susan Schultz. Textos Books, 2008.
  • A Formal Feeling Comes: Poems in Form by Contemporary Women. Brownsville, OR: Story Line Press, 1994. Reprinted by Textos Books, 2007.
  • Lofty Dogmas: Poets on Poetics. Coeditor with Maxine Kumin and Deborah Brown. University of Arkansas Press, 2005.
  • An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art. With Katherine Varnes. University of Michigan Press, 2002.
  • Carolyn Kizer: Perspectives on Her Life and Work. Coeditor with Johanna Keller and Candace McClelland. CavanKerry Press, 2000.
  • After New Formalism: Poets on Form, Narrative, and Tradition. Brownsville, OR: Story Line Press, 1999.


  1. ^ Finch, Margaret Rockwell, Crone's Wines, Ablemuse Press, 2017
  2. ^ Finch, Annie. "Desks." The Body of Poetry, 106-110
  3. ^ Small Press Distribution Catalog. "Calendars,"
  4. ^ Finch, Annie. "Preface." The Encyclopedia of Scotland, xi
  5. ^ Finch, Annie. "The Naming." "Poetry Witch Blog," Annie Finch's website
  6. ^ Finch, Annie. "Occasioning Poetry." Poetry Foundation,
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Keyes, Claire. "Annie Finch." Scribners American Writers Series 2009, 00
  15. ^ Finch, Annie. "An Interview with Annie Finch." Poemeleon[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ Finch, Annie. "Preface." Spells: New and Selected Poems, xi
  17. ^
  18. ^ Finch, Annie. "Metrical Diversity." The Body of Poetry, 84-92
  19. ^ Finch, Annie. "Metrical Diversity." The Body of Poetry, 84-92
  20. ^ Brock, J. "Review of An Exaltation of Forms, Choice, September 2002
  21. ^ Palmer, G.M. "Why We Read: Spells by Annie Finch, The Critical Flame, September 2013
  22. ^ "The Sentimental Poetess in the World: Metaphor and Subjectivity in Lydia Sigourney's Nature Poetry, Legacy Vol. 5, No. 2 (Fall 1988), pp. 3-18
  23. ^ Finch, Annie. "Poetess Poetics." The Body of Poetry, 100-110
  24. ^
  25. ^ Finch, Annie. "Welcome to Healing Rhythms of Words."
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ Finch, Annie. Spells:New and Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 2013. pp. xi-xii
  29. ^ Showalter, Elaine. "Feminist Poetics." In Alex Preminger et al, eds. Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (Princeton U. Press, 1993) p. 406
  30. ^ Finch, A.R.C.. "Dickinson and Patriarchal Meter: A Theory of Metrical Codes." PMLA Volume 102, Number 2, March 1987, pp. 166–176
  31. ^ Finch, Annie. The Ghost of Meter: Culture and Prosody in American Free Verse (University of Michigan Press, 1994, pp. 13-30
  32. ^ Finch, Annie. "Literary Sexual Abuse: Things I've Been Ashamed to Share About Being a Woman Writer Until Now."
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ Barron, Jonathan N. "Annie Finch." Dictionary of Literary Biography 282, 101
  36. ^ Taylor, Henry, "Eve by Annie Finch",Washington Times October 14, 1997
  37. ^ Rawlins, C.L. "Review of Eve," Rain Taxi, Fall 1998
  38. ^ Silliman, Ron. "Review of Annie Finch,Calendars," Silliman's Blog, August 10, 2005
  39. ^ Finch, Annie. "Preface." Spells: New and Selected Poems, iv
  40. ^ Monaghan, Patricia. "Review of Annie Finch,Calendars," Web del Sol, Fall 1998

External linksEdit