The Southbound Project, which is currently on display in the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art and The City Gallery at Waterfront Park, is the largest showcase of photographs from the twenty-first century which capture the new American south.
As a supplement to the exhibit, the curators of Southbound, Mark Sloan, director and chief curator of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, and Mark Long, professor of political science, hosted American poet Nikky Finney at The City Gallery on Tuesday the 12th for a reading of her poetry written in conjunction to the project. Finney is a recipient of the National Book Award, the PEN American Open Book Award and the Benjamin Franklin Award for Poetry. She is also a current professor at the University of South Carolina.
She opened the reading by explaining why she had initially joined the Southbound project, and reading a selection from an essay about her childhood – every scene of which she believed could have been a photograph in the exhibit.
Finney wrote four poems specifically for Southbound, one of which addressed the tragic shooting at Charleston’s own Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015. She additionally included her own works unaffiliated with Southbound, speaking emphatically as she read poems, essays and even a note from a former student.
Finney’s role in the project was to create a narrative utilizing only the images from the exhibit which embodied the dynamic nature of the American south that the photographs from Southbound sought to depict.
Based on the standing ovation she received after reading her final work of the evening, Finney clearly fulfilled that role.