Award-winning poet Nickole Brown is Hollins University’s Louis D. Rubin Jr. Writer-in-Residence for 2024.
Each spring, Hollins hosts a distinguished writer-in-residence who works with graduate and selected undergraduate students. The residency is named for the founder of the university’s renowned creative writing program.
Brown’s debut collection, a novel in poems entitled Sister (Sibling Rivalry Press), was first published in 2007 with a new edition reissued in 2018. “That Sibling Rivalry Press has republished Brown’s Sister is prescient in light of the #MeToo movement where myriad women (and men) have come forward with the truth about sexual abuse and harassment,” wrote Library Journal’s Karla Huston in 2019. “The poems hold their own 11 years later, not as reportage, but as testimony to the skill of Brown’s writing and her ability to tell a story. The poems still feel fresh and alive, with language that is as delightful as it is harrowing. The Verdict: This is a must-read book.“
Fanny Says (BOA Editions, 2025), a biography in poems about Brown’s grandmother, won the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Poetry. The Lambda Literary Review’s Julia R. Enszer noted, “In the tradition of great lesbian writers such as Dorothy Allison, Fannie Flagg, June Arnold and Rita Mae Brown, Nickole Brown spins a yarn that is at once fantastical and believable, one that leaves us, as readers, yearning for more. . . .Ultimately, one of the most striking aspects of Fanny Says is how deftly Brown presents binaries as paradoxes: Southern femininity with Southern masculinity, Southern hospitality with Southern cruelty, Southern politeness with Southern plain speech. In the end, I was as charmed by these poems as I was provoked, and that is an extraordinary combination.”
A chapbook of nine poems exploring the complex, interdependent, and often fraught relationship between human and non-human animals, To Those Who Were Our First Gods (Rattle, 2018) won the 2018 Rattle Chapbook Prize and was a finalist for both the 2018 Julie Suk Award and the 2020 Eric Hoffer Award. “When I received my copy of To Those Who Were Our First Gods, I sat down on the couch intending—as I usually do with a book of poetry—to spot-read one or two poems then put it down for another time,” said Jonathan Balcombe, author of the New York Times bestseller What a Fish Knows. “But within a few stanzas, I became immersed and read the whole thing. I really love these poems, and I’m moved by them. Nickole Brown expresses so well, and uniquely, the feelings of alienation and frustration we ‘animal people’ feel.”
Brown’s essay in poems, The Donkey Elegies (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2020), “closely examines an animal’s history, tracing how one species hauled the stones that built our civilizations, plowed the fields that fed generations, and carted soldiers and weapons from war to war,” said the publisher. “The poems undo the brunt end of every lewd joke and unearth the sacred origins of a creature we rarely consider except as melancholy cartoon or dumb, stubborn brute. In these twenty-five linked pieces, a truth is made real: that we must cherish each living thing, each animal, each human being for all their worth.” Kelly Barth of Book Marks added that The Donkey Elegies “broke my heart and then sewed it back together again with threads of animal kinship. Brown’s writing both slays and soothes.”
Brown co-authored her latest book, Write It! 100 Poetry Prompts to Inspire, with fellow poet Jessica Jacobs. Published in 2021 by Spruce Books of Penguin Random House, Write It! focuses on helping developing poets and writers deepen their craft. Janet McNally, author of The Looking Glass, called it “an absolute pleasure, a gentle, encouraging guide for discovering the stories around and within us. Jacobs and Brown serve as fairy godpoets, bringing us the words and wisdom of beloved writers along with prompts to inspire and embolden. This book asks us to be curious and open, to find ourselves in the mirror and on the page. It shows us how to eavesdrop on the world and our own hearts.”
Brown received her M.F.A. from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and studied literature at Oxford University. Early in her career, she was the editorial assistant for the late, legendary journalist Hunter S. Thompson and worked at Sarabande Books for ten years. She currently teaches periodically at the Sewanee School of Letters M.F.A. Program, the Great Smokies Writing Program at the University of North Carolina – Asheville, and at the Hindman Settlement School. She resides in Asheville and regularly teaches generative writing sessions as part of the SunJune Literary Collaborative.
Hollins’ writer-in-residence program began in 1961. To support the initiative, an endowed fund honoring Wyndham Robertson ’58 was established in 1994. The program was then named in tribute to Rubin in 2000. Previous writers-in-residence include William Golding (1962); Flannery O’Connor, Robert Penn Warren, and Eudora Welty (1964); Lee Smith ’67 (1976); Richard Adams (1977); Derek Walcott (1980); and Natasha Trethewey M.A. ’91 (2012).