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Niki Herd

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.