Years: 05', 06', 08'
Niki Herd earned degrees in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and Antioch in Los Angeles. She is the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her work has been supported by the Astraea Foundation and the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and has appeared in several journals and anthologies. The Language of Shedding Skin, her first collection of poems, was a 2009 finalist for the Benjamin Saltman Prize. In the following year, it was a finalist for the Main Street Rag Poetry Award and was published by the press.
an excerpt from Jena, Louisiana
What if—when they told those kids
to sit under that tree, they knew
they knew that black folks couldn’t walk
under the same sky without there being
some trouble. The very fact that black
had to ask white to sit under a tree
was a bad sign, bad as someone
brushing your ankles with a broom.
Don’t ever believe what white folks tell you.
Imagine a painting like Gauguin, the
silhouette of a dark body hangs
from a tree; against the muted brush
strokes thick with a setting sun, a black
boy rises to the pulpit and testifies.