In 1985, and at the age of 26, Finney's debut collection of poetry, On Wings
Made of Gauze, was published by William Morrow (a division of HaperCollins).
Finney's next full-length collection of poetry and portraits, RICE (Sister
Vision Press, 1995), was awarded the PEN America-Open Book Award, which was
followed by a collection of short stories entitled Heartwood (University
Press of Kentucky, 1998). Her next full-length poetry collection, The World
Is Round (Inner Light Books, 2003) was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Award
sponsored by the Independent Booksellers Association. In 2007, Finney edited
the anthology, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South (University of
Georgia Press/Cave Canem), which has become an essential compilation of
contemporary African American writers. Her fourth full-length collection of
poetry, Head Off & Split, is forthcoming from Northwestern University Press
Finney and her work have been featured on Russell Simmons DEF Poetry (HBO series), renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson's feature The Meaning of Food (a PBS production) and National Public Radio. Her work has been praised by Walter Mosley, Nikki Giovanni, Gloria Naylor and the late CBS/60 Minutes news anchor Ed Bradley. Finney has held distinguished posts at Berea College as the Goode Chair in the Humanities and Smith College as the Grace Hazard Conklin Writer-in-Residence.
Finney is currently a Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University Kentucky. She is a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets.
On Nikkey Finney’s acceptance speech for the 2011 Poetry Award, John Litgow said, “That was the best acceptance speech for anything I’ve ever heard in my life.”