Nickole Brown


Nickole Brown received her MFA from the Vermont College, studied literature at Oxford University, and was the editorial assistant for the late Hunter S. Thompson. She worked at Sarabande Books for ten years. Her first collection, Sister, a novel-in-poems, was first published in 2007 by Red Hen Press and a new edition will be reissued by Sibling Rivalry Press in 2018. Her second book, a biography-in-poems called Fanny Says, came out from BOA Editions in 2015, and the audio book of that collection became available in 2017. She was an Assistant Professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for four years until she gave up her beloved time in the classroom in hope of writing full time. Currently, she is the Editor for the Marie Alexander Poetry Series and teaches periodically at a number of places, including the Sewanee School of Letters MFA Program, the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNCA, and the Hindman Settlement School. She lives with her wife, poet Jessica Jacobs, in Asheville, NC, where she volunteers at a four different animal sanctuaries. Currently, she’s at work on a bestiary of sorts about these animals, but it won’t consist of the kind of pastorals that always made her (and most of the working-class folks she knows) feel shut out of nature and the writing about it—these poems speak in a queer, Southern-trash-talking kind of way about nature beautiful, but damaged and dangerous.

Extended Bio

As a poet with an MFA in Fiction, Nickole Brown has a strong leaning toward cross-genre work, an interest reflected in her two collections of poems. Fanny Says, published by BOA Editions in 2015, is a biography-in-poems about her grandmother, Frances Lee Cox, and Sister, her debut collection (published by Red Hen Press in 2007 and reissued by Sibling Rivalry in 2018), is a novel-in-poems. 

Though much of her childhood was spent in Deerfield Beach, Florida, Nickole considers herself a Kentucky native. For nearly ten years, she worked at Twice Told, a used bookstore in Louisville, where she received the vast majority of her literary education from its cranky and brilliant proprietor, Harold Maier. There, she also gained much of her early experiences as a writer with a local movement called Rant for the Literary Renaissance. It was with this raucous group that she gave some of her first readings, published her first chapbook, Mud, and later traveled to New York University to share the stage with poets Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg. Shortly after this period, she met Hunter S. Thompson (also from Louisville) and in 1996, went to Woody Creek, Colorado, to work as his Editorial Assistant. Upon Thompson’s death in 2005, Nickole wrote a short feature documenting her time there for Poets & Writers

Early on, she received her first training as a writer at Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts and thereafter had the honor of winning a Scholastic Writing award whose prize was a beloved Brother Word Processor, weighing in at thirty pounds, and an invitation to read her winning entry with Garrison Keillor at New York's Waldorf Astoria. She graduated summa cum laude from University of Louisville and studied Romantic Poetry at Oxford University as an English Speaking Union Scholar. In 2003, she received her MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has continued her engagement with that program by returning to campus as a Visiting Poet and by assisting with the coordination of their writing residencies in Slovenia and Puerto Rico.

For ten years, Nickole worked at the nonprofit, independent, literary press, Sarabande Books as Director of Marketing and Development. There, she helped to garner national attention for the press and its authors. With over a hundred titles in print or under contract, this press is considered to be one of the strongest independents in the country. In November of 2008, Publishers Weekly ran an article featuring her work as a publicist, and for several years after her tenure at Sarabande, she continued to work as a publicity consultant for individual poets as well as for national venues including the Palm Beach Poetry Festival and Arktoi Books, an imprint founded by the poet Eloise Klein Healy dedicated to publishing literary fiction and poetry by lesbian writers.

Now, as a professor, Nickole passes on what she has learned of the publishing industry to her students, regularly teaching seminars on independent publishing both to her university students and to writers at conferences. She has participated in many panels on publishing, including presentations at the Associated Writing Programs Conference, The Palm Beach Poetry Festival, The Florida Literary Arts Conference, The Virginia Festival of the Book, The Oxford Conference for the Book, and Ball State University. She also keeps a toe in the publishing industry by working with Robert Alexander as Editor of the Marie Alexander Poetry Series. This series is dedicated to the appreciation, enjoyment, and understanding of American prose poetry and publishes about one book annually through White Pine Press. She is also an Advisory Editor for Orison Books and on the Advisory Board of Sibling Rivalry Press.

Nickole began her work as a teacher in 2008. Since then, she’s led many workshops in Fiction and Poetry, and has also designed and taught interdisciplinary courses that use literature to spark history to life, particularly African-American and Queer Civil Rights in the United States. She has taught at Bellarmine University, University of Louisville, and Antioch University Midwest.  For four years, Nickole worked as an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and in addition to tending to her classes there, she mentored independent writing projects and served as the advisor for the student-run literary magazine, Equinox. In 2015, she made the difficult decision to resign from this tenure-track position in order to have more time to write and work with students in a deeper, more concentrated way. Since then, she has spent time teaching as part of the Writing Workshops in Greece and the Sewannee Young Writers Conference and Sewanee School of Letters MFA Program, and she often works with graduate students at the low-residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Murray State. She also regularly teaches workshops at conferences and residencies, including Poets House, the Poetry Society of North Carolina, the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, and the Sanibel Island Writers Conference.

Nickole thinks of poetry as an audio art—something to be heard and not just read on the page—and enjoys giving readings. When Sister, her first collection, was published in 2007, she toured for years, giving over eighty readings in venues as far and wide as San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Virginia, Ann Arbor, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Florida, and Portland, Oregon, and her most recent tour for Fanny Says covered over twenty states in one year. She’s shared the stage with many poets she admires, including Mark Doty, Natasha Trethewey, and Matthew Zapruder. But she also enjoys low-key venues—in the past, she’s given readings on summer lawns in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, on the wobbly stages of roughneck bars in Nashville, and in a packed Waffle House in Eastern Kentucky. The audio book of Fanny Says was recorded by Talking Book and will be released in late 2017.

She currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her wife, poet Jessica Jacobs, and their motley collection of ill-behaved, highly lovable pets. There she is happily on the Advisory Board for Orison Books and teaching each fall as part of UNCA's Great Smokies Writing Program. Currently at work on a collection of poems about animals, she is thrilled to volunteer each week at Animal Haven of Asheville and the Western North Carolina Nature Center, and has recently joined the team at Heart of Horse Sense. She also spends vast amounts of time hiking in the mountains, trolling around her favorite indie bookstore in town (Yay, Malaprops!), and sipping herself into a frenzy with the particularly strong yerba mate at the nearby Dobrá Tea.

Nickole has received grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, the Kentucky Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. With their support, she was able to make the changes in her life that allowed her to keep writing. It's no understatement to say that without their generosity, the vast majority of her poems would not exist.