Finney said she loved both basketball and writing, and resented that others wanted her to choose between them.
"It seems like this world always makes you choose," Finney said. "And so I loved both and still do both. They feed each other."
On Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m., Finney will be reading a selection from her new book, "Love Child's Hotbed of Occasional Poetry: Poems and Artifacts" in the Genome Sciences Auditorium. Finney said the book is a collection of photographs, poetry, prose and love-letters from her father to her.
Finney’s father was the Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, and the first Black person appointed to the South Carolina Supreme Court since the Reconstruction era. Finney said the book is an eulogy to her dad, who always wanted her to go to law school but still supported her poetry.
Then on Feb. 27, Finney will be discussing Public History and Memory and the Souls of Blackfolk in the South at 3:30 p.m. at the Campus Y. The panel will be moderated by Jennifer Larson, Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of English and Comparative Literature.
“We are going to be talking about the connections between Nikky’s work and current events on campus and elsewhere," Larson said. "Talking about the ways in which poetry in general can connect beyond the page to larger events, but also the connections between personal and public history that are really emphasized in Nikky’s work."
Finney said that her writing process is a little bit of madness, little bit of prayer, and she has to be moving at the speed of light.
“I think poetry has always been the purest way to speak," Finney said. "And I think that has been so for a thousand years. Because it lends itself to saying the difficult thing in the most beautiful way, I don't think there’s anything like poetry."
Finney said that she is inspired to write by the people she meets, her belief in the human heart and monarch butterflies. One of Finney’s books — "Head Off & Split" — is dedicated to Lucille Clifton. Finney said she is inspired by Clifton and other writers such as Ruth Stone, Gwendolyn Brooks and Toni Morrison.
Finney said she first started writing when she was 13.
“I just started putting my crazy 13-year-old thoughts into a little journal book," Finney said.
Finney said in her journal she conveyed her innermost thoughts and feelings, which helped her process her experiences.
"I don’t turn to the nightly news to find out how I feel about something," Finney said. "I really sort of go to my journals and think about what it is that I want to think about. And writing helps me clarify things in the world."
Finney is not only a poet, but a teacher. She was a professor at the University of Kentucky for more than 20 years. Finney said that when teaching, she encourages students to value the process of drafting.
"The beauty of writing has everything to do with drafting and going back and polishing and working on it," Finney said.
Gabrielle Calvocoressi, a poet and UNC professor, said that Finney’s teaching ability made her an ideal candidate for the student-centered program.
“She is to me one of the greatest poets writing in the world right now," Calvocoressi said. "She is also a really legendary and extraordinary teacher."