Poet, translator, essayist, librettist and anthologist, Annie Finch has made her mark in late 20th century poetry as an advocate for the cause of formal poetry, and for her own power within form. Equally important, she has identified and articulated a new concept of women's poetry which is separate from, though not at all antithetical to, feminism.

 Finch was born 31 October 1956 in New Rochelle, NY, into a poetry-loving family—her parents met at a lecture series on Shakespeare by W. H. Auden. Her mother was a poet, and from Annie’s early childhood, both parents read and recited poetry to her. She was educated at Yale, the University of Houston, and Stanford, where she received her Ph. D. in 1991. Her first, self-published poetry collection was The Encyclopedia of Scotland (1982—republished by Salt Publishing, 2004), and the first for which she gained wide recognition was Eve (1997). She joined the faculty of Miami University, Miami, OH in 1996. 

 Finch traces her inclination toward formalism to the poems her parents read her, then to courses at Yale in Anglo-Saxon and medieval poetry, linguistics, and poetry in both modern and ancient languages. But as she began to develop as a poet, her feminist perspective made her deeply suspicious of form as a patriarchal construct. Women poets of a previous generation, like Adrienne Rich, Denise Levertov and Diane Wakoski, had defiantly broken from the formal tradition, as the mid-20th century explosion of powerful female voices coincided with the heyday of free verse. Finch's own early work was Beat-inspired, street inspired, rhythmic performance poetry. The Encyclopedia of Scotland was originally presented as a perfomance piece with music and movement.

 But Finch found herself more and more drawn to the earliest traditions of English language poetry, and the power inherent in formal poetry. She began not only to work in form herself, but to seek out what she discovered was a burgeoning interest in form by women. The result was her anthology, A Formal Feeling Comes (1994), which ignited controversy, but established a powerful new set of possibilities for women poets.

 More recently, she has turned her attention to the reclamation of the concept of the "poetess," a 19th century term which was scorned as demeaning in the mid to late 20th Century. Finch sees the work of poets like Sara Teasdale, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Emma Lazarus as representing an important tradition which she calls "sentimentist," and distinguishes from the male-dominated Romantic tradition, which in its focus on Nature and the world outside the poet (including that of the spirit and religion) over the centrality of the poet’s sensibility.

 In her own poetry, Finch explores the tensions of a modern sensibility steeped in a profound awareness of tradition, not only in her use of forms – particularly meter – but also in her subject matter. Eve combines scholarly and cultural acquaintance with the women of myth and powerful immediate awareness of the contemporary situation of women in the world as it slouches toward the 21st Century. Her myths are often not the most familiar to the Western reader, and this allows her to create a reality of her own, not tied to the immediate present but not anchored in a recognizable historical past, either.

 In Eve, and continuing through her subsequent books, Season Poems (2001) and Calendars (2003), Finch has continued to explore all the possibilities of form, which she defined in her introduction to A Formal Feeling Comes as “structured (not decorated) by the conspicuous repetition of any language element." Her rejection of decoration, and her intense concentration on what language can do, gives her an unlikely kinship with language poets like Bernadette Mayer and Ron Silliman, whose work she admires for the pure physicality of its approach to language, and its ability to separate totally, not partially, from the rhythms of metric verse. In fact, in her continuing role as one of the champions of form in poetry during the late 20th and early 21st centuries,

 Finch's work with music includes the libretti for Three Mothers, an trilogy of chamber operas with music by Deborah Drattell. The first of these, Marina, was premiered by American Opera Projects in New York (2003). She has translated a range of poetry, most significantly the 16th century French poet Louise Labé. 



Further Reading.  Selected Primary Sources: Finch, Annie, Eve. Brownsville, OR: Story Line Press, 1997. ----,  Calendars. Dorset, VT: Tupelo Press, 2003. ----, ed., A Formal Feeling Comes: Poems in Form by Contemporary Women. Brownsville, OR: Story Line Press, 1994. ----, “The Poetess in America.” Able Muse (Winter 2002). Selected Secondary Sources: Maas, Tomma Lou. “Multiformalism: an interview with Annie Finch.” Poetry Flash 263 (1995): 1. Gwynn, R. S., interview. Able Muse (Winter 2002).