Nickole Brown

Award-winning Poet & Educator
Winner of the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Poetry
Animal Advocate

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  • An Evening with Nickole Brown


“Nickole Brown works the miracle of all good art, recording the unbearable even as she transforms it.” ­–Ellen Bass

“Brown [deftly] presents binaries as paradoxes: Southern femininity with Southern masculinity, Southern hospitality with Southern cruelty, Southern politeness with Southern plain speech.” –Lambda Literary Review

“Brown is a savior of wild creatures, a lover of animals, an angel in waiting, a rescuer, a storyteller.”—Washington Independent Review of Books

As a poet with an MFA in Fiction, Nickole Brown has a strong leaning toward cross-genre work, which was demonstrated in her debut, a novel-in-poems called Sister (Red Hen Press, 2007), published to great acclaim and reissued ten years later with a guide for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Her second book, Fanny Says (BOA, 2015), is a biography-in-poems about her tough-as-new-rope grandmother from Kentucky. The collection won the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Poetry , and in an Oxford American review, Parneshia Jones wrote, “What makes this book essential to the growing cannon of writers confronting the American heritage is that these poems resist sympathy. . . . Here Brown is at her best—writing calamity with eloquence, speaking, in the same moment, Fanny’s complications and the poet’s claim on it. This book, like a grandmother’s love, is not always pretty, but it pulls you in and gives you so much truth.”

Most recently, Nickole Brown’s writing employs hybridity to examine the relationship between humans and animals in poems that operate like lean, lyric essays. Her work speaks in a Southern-trash-talking way about nature beautiful, damaged, dangerous, and in desperate need of saving. This includes two chapbooks: To Those Who Were Our First Gods, winner of the 2018 Rattle Prize, and her essay-in-poems, The Donkey Elegies (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2020). As Lia Purpura says, “Brown’s gorgeous language is infused with radical tenderness, authentic surprise, and restless curiosity. As acts of rescue, reclamation, and repair, her poems serve as extended heart-songs to all of us, and especially to the least of us.”

Brown has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and the Kentucky Arts Council. She received her MFA from the Vermont College, studied literature at Oxford University, and was the editorial assistant for the late Hunter S. Thompson. For ten years, Brown worked at the nonprofit, independent, literary press, Sarabande Books. She was, for many years after, co-editor of the Marie Alexander Poetry Series. She’s taught at a number of places, including Poets House, Hugo House, the Poetry Society of North Carolina, and 24 Pearl Street at The Fine Arts Works Center at Provincetown.

Currently, she lives in Asheville, NC, where she periodically volunteers at three different animal sanctuaries. There she also serves as President of the Hellbender Gathering of Poets, a nonprofit organization that aims to nurture a community hellbent on finding the words that protect and repair our climate-changed world. Their first annual environmental poetry festival is set to launch in Black Mountain, NC, in October of 2025.

In 2024, she’ll be the Writer-in-Residence at Hollins University, and after, she’ll teach—as she does every summer—at the Sewanee School of Letters MFA Program.


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