Let’s Read: “The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998” Book Review

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“May i spin a poem around you come let’s step into my web and dream of freedom together”

“A poem is pure energy horizontally contained between the mind of the poet and the ear of the reader if it does not sing discard the ear”

One of my absolutely brilliant Black Girl Magic friends that I’ve had a brain crush on since I was a mere child mentioned Nikki Giovanni casually in a conversation we had a couple years ago before I moved abroad. I took a mental note and put her on my list. I am so not poetry reader. I just don’t get it even if I scrunch my eyes real tight and tilt my head. I’m a bit hopeless and I felt like I was missing out on such gems because I have zero poetry interpretation skills. BUT, I tried.

Favorite Parts

First. She wrote about everything that crossed her mind and path. The collection I read organized her poetry chronologically. I felt as thought she was watching the nightly news on her TV with her feet propped up after a long day of being a mom and Black Girl Magic, saw a news brief, and then wrote her commentary about it rhythmically and symbolically in poetry verse. She captured the humanity of the decades she’s passed through.

Second. Nowhere in her biography did she talk about being connected to a man or male partner. We know that she had had at least 1 because she has a son, but that part was skipped and I loved it. She created a life not by accident and intentionally maintained her greatness without the traditional connection to a partner. BUT in her poetry, you could clearly see—even in my poetry blindness and lack of interpretive prowess—that she had been deeply in love and also grieved through breakups. Whether she was in love, feeling herself clearly single, or picking up her heart pieces after a breakup, she still thrived and added to her essence beautifully.

Third favorite part. Now that these matriarchs and patriarchs of the Civil Rights Movement are aged, we often forget that they were my age—our age when they were in the midst of doing great things. They were frustrated, angry, determined. They rested, enjoyed each other’s company, laughed. They raised children, had great sex, dined on delicious food. They decided enough was enough, created initiatives to protect their lineage, used the essence of themselves to do their part in the fight for justice. And now they’re old. I want to be like this when I’m old—sitting in my rocking chair after living a bomba$$ life filled with massive highs and massive lows and prickly bushes and winning patches that were smooth as unscathed ice.

Fourth favorite part. In the footnotes at the back, one of them said that Nikki and Angela finally met at Toni’s 70th birthday party. Imagine the level of excellence in the room! Nikki Giovanni after myriad poems meets Angela Davis—professor, activist, and tenacious womanist/feminist—bump into each other at Toni Morrison’s—queen of prose—birthday party. How perfect.

Why You Need To Read This

First. Poetry floats off the page and has the same power as prose, but approaches humanity and understanding of the nuances differently.

Second. See the beauty within the Civil Rights Movement. Time stops still and you can think about quotidian moments within the fight for equity.

Third. Nikki is Black Girl Magic. Just like everyone needs to read Toni Morrison. Everyone needs to read Nikki. Full stop.

Book Description from Uncle Bobbi’s Coffee and Books:

This omnibus includes her first seven volumes of poetry from her early years, 1967 to 1983: Black Feeling Black Talk; Black Judgement; Re: Creation; My House; The Women and the Men; Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day; and Those Who Ride the Night Winds. A timeless classic, it is both a reflection of the changes in her own life and an evocation of a nation’s past and its present.

Author Biography from Uncle Bobbi’s Coffee and Books:

Nikki Giovanni, poet, activist, mother, and professor, is a seven-time NAACP Image Award winner and the first recipient of the Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award, and holds the Langston Hughes Medal for Outstanding Poetry, among many other honors. The author of twenty-eight books and a Grammy nominee for The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, she is the University Distinguished Professor of English at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.

ALWAYS buy books from Black independent bookstores, NOT Amazon.

Are you currently reading a book by a Black author? Share your thoughts in a brief audio clip and I’ll feature you and your read on a future podcast episode!

How to contact me:

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Email: melanatedstamps@gmail.com

Buy my book on my website: #BlackInDenver: A Black Girl’s Reflection on Being A Boujie Hipster and Black In Her Favorite Town. Essays On Race, Racial and Cultural Dissonance, Whiteness, and Being Blackity Black.

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