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Giovanni, Nikki 1943–

Nikki Giovanni 1943

Writer, educator, performer

Strong Spirit Fostered Early

Launched Writing Career

Works Garnered Praise and Notice

Poet of the People

Developed Academic Side of Career

Rebounded From Serious Illness

Selected writings

Sources

Nikki Giovanni began to be known in the late 1960s as one of the strongest voices of the newly emerging Black Arts movement. Along with other new black poets, such as Haki Madhubuti, Etheridge Knight, and Sonia Sanchez, Giovanni was published by Dudley Randalls Broadside Press. As Richard Barksdale and Keneth Kinnamon have written, these poets had a constructively emotional impact on the collective racial ego of black America. Giovanni in particular, declared Virginia C. Fowler in the introduction to Conversations With Nikki Giovanni, has been one of the most vital and eventually most famous voices in the Black Arts movements challenge to existing assumptions about poetry. With more than a dozen volumes of poetry to her credit, Nikki Giovanni has been instrumental in shaping the direction of contemporary black American poetry.

Nikki Giovanni was born on June 7, 1943, in Knox-ville, Tennessee, to Jones and Yolande Watson Giovanni. Shortly after her birth, the family moved first to Woodlawn, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati, then to Wyoming, Ohio, and ultimately to the black community of Lincoln Heights, Ohio. Giovannis father often had to work several jobs during these years. Giovanni, however, described her childhoodspent with her parents and older sister Garywith vivid and fond details in what her biographer, Virginia Fowler, called Giovannis signature poem, Nikki-Rosa from Black Judgement. Knowing that readers will often draw false conclusions about the factual details of ones life, Giovanni says they will probably talk about my hard childhood/and never understand that/all the while I was quite happy.

Strong Spirit Fostered Early

Despite poverty, the Giovannis provided hundreds of books and a piano for their daughters. The most famous line of the poem summarizes Giovannis subjective experience of her childhood: Black love is black wealth. In 1957 Nikki Giovanni decided to return to what she regarded as her spiritual home, the home of her maternal grandparents, John Brown and Emma Louvenia Watson in Knoxville, Tennessee. Young Nikki, her sister, and cousins had spent many summer vacations and other holidays at their grandparents

At a Glance

Born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr., on June 7, 1943, in Knoxville, TN; daughter of Jones (a probation officer) and Yolande Watson Giovanni; children: Thomas Watson. Education: Fisk University, BA, 1967; attended University of Cincinnati, 1961-63, University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work, 1968, Columbia University School of the Arts, 1968.

Career: Queens College (CUNY) and Rutgers University, teacher, 1969; NikTom, Ltd. (communications company), founder and publisher, 1970; Ohio State University, visiting professor of English, 1984; Mount Joseph on the Ohio, professor of creative writing, 1985-87; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, visiting professor of English, 1987-89, professor of English, 1989-; Warm Hearth Writers Workshop, director, 1988-.

Member: State of Tennessee Literary Arts Festival, co-chair, 1986; Society of Magazine Writers, National Black Heroines for PUSH; Winnie Mandela Childrens Fund Committee; Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy, board of directors, 1990-93.

Selected awards: Mademoiselle magazine, Highest Achievement Award, 1971; National Association of Radio and Television Announcers award, 1972, for Truth Is on Its Way; National Council of Negro Women, life membership and scroll, 1973; Cincinnati Post Post-Corbett Award, 1986; Oakland Museum Film Festival Silver Apple Award, 1988; Ohioana Library Award, 1988; Childrens Reading Roundtable of Chicago Award, 1988; NAACP, Woman of the Year, 1989. Honorary degrees from numerous institutions including Fisk University, Wilberforce University, and Illinois University.

Addresses: Agent c/o William Morrow, Inc., 105 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10016. Office English Department, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061.

house. Louvenia Watsons strong spirit, Fowler mentioned in her book, gave her granddaughter a sense of belonging in the world. Fowler described Giovannis radicalization process while she lived with her grandparents, saying that Louvenia instilled in her a belief in the importance of individual action, of the moral imperative to stand up and be counted whether your side wins or not.

It was at Austin High School in Knoxville that Giovanni began her education in African-American literature. According to Fowler, Giovannis English teacher throughout high school, Miss Alfredda Delaney, launched her on a course of reading Afro-American writers and required her to write about what she read. Giovanni left high school after the 11th grade because she was accepted to Fisk Universitys Early Entrants Program in 1960. However, she was dismissed after her first semester because she visited her grandparents at Thanksgiving without receiving formal permission from the University authorities.

In Gemini Giovanni explained that she was released from the school because her attitudes did not fit those of a Fisk woman. Giovanni returned to her parents home in Cincinnati, where she began working at Walgreens Drug Store and taking classes at the University of Cincinnati. When she reentered Fisk in 1964, she engaged in literary and radical activities, including reestablishing the universitys chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), editing the student literary magazine, and participating in John O. Killens creative writing workshop.

Launched Writing Career

When Giovanni graduated with honors in history from Fisk in the spring of 1967, she returned to Cincinnati and continued to develop her interests in writing and political activity that had been fostered at Fisk. Her articles and book reviews began appearing in periodicals such as Negro Digest and Black World, and the poetry she began to write formed her first volume, Black Feeling, Black Talk. Her grandmothers death in 1967, as much as the increasing activities of the Civil Rights movement, provided the impetus for much of her poetry in Black Feeling, Black Talk.

And as Martha Cook explained, her other publications consistently attack[ed] elitism in the Black Arts movement and praised writers whom she viewed as presenting a realistic yet positive picture of black life, including new and established voices. Giovannis other post graduate activities included organizing the first Cincinnati Black Arts Festival and Cincinnatis black theatrical group, The New Theatre. In May of 1967, Giovanni met H. Rap Brown at the Detroit Conference of Unity and Art, and, as Virginia Fowler described it, from this point forward, she was closely involved with many of the key figures of the Black Arts movement and the Black Power movement.

After a semester at the University of Pennsylvanias School of Social Work, in 1968, Giovanni moved to New York City, which would be her home for the next ten years. Although she received a grant from the National Foundation of the Arts to attend Columbia Universitys School of Fine Arts, she found she couldnt work with what Virginia Fowler labelled the conservative white literary critics who tried to tell her she could not write. At this point in 1968 Giovanni had her first collection of poetry privately published.

Works Garnered Praise and Notice

Giovannis second volume of poetry, Black Judgement, was published in 1969 with the assistance of a grant from the Harlem Council of the Arts. Sheila Weller of Mademoiselle magazine believed Giovanni to be one of the most powerful figures on the new black poetry sceneboth in language and appeal. Also during 1969, Giovanni gave birth to her son, Thomas Watson Giovanni. Giovanni later told Peter Bailey of Ebony magazine that she had a baby because I wanted to have a baby and that she didnt marry the father because I didnt want to get married, and I could afford not to get married. According to Martha Cook, Giovanni has remained unmarried and has consistently viewed her single motherhood as a positive choice.

During 1969 Giovanni began teaching at Queens College and Rutgers University. In 1970 William Morrow combined Giovannis first two collections of poetry and published them under the title Black Feeling, Black Talk/Black Judgement. During the same year, Dudley Randalls Broadside Press published Re: Creation, and in 1971, Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement was published. These volumes of poetry deal with both personal and political topics, and with them, as Fowler noted, Giovanni enters the dialogue of the 1960s about black identity. Fowler also identified the poems rage against white America that was largely responsible for earning her the label of revolutionary poet.

The strong voice of a black female poet was emerging. Fowler explained that the question of female identity addressed in only a few poems of Black Judgement is a central theme of Re: Creation, and Barbara Christian has written that when Giovanni addresses herself to the problems of the black woman she puts all her poetic force, rap, and rhythm into illuminating the situation. What readers perceived to be a shift in emphasis from the political to the personal caused Ruth McClain of Black World to lament Giovannis transformation into an almost declawed, tamed Panther with bad teeth.

Poet of the People

During the two years between the publication of 1970s Re:Creation and 1972s My House, Giovanni began to travel overseas, including her first trip to Africa. It was also during these years that she began to act on her philosophy that poetry is the culture of a people, by taking her poetry to the people, as Fowler concluded. Giovanni did so with the first of many sound recordings. Truth Is On Its Way was produced in collaboration with the New York Community Choir. In addition she attended numerous public readings and appearancessometimes more than 200 in one yearincluding The Tonight Show on June 14, 1972, and Lincoln Centers Alice Tully Hall on July 25, 1972.

In an essay on black literary criticism, Margaret B. McDowell wrote that through Giovannis public readings and appearances she truly becomes poet of the people renew[ing] the tradition of the bard, prophet, or witness who sings or chants to inform the people. The poems contained in My House are suggestive of this time period in Giovannis life; in fact, Virginia Fowler suggested that if read as a whole they become a poetic autobiography of the first three decades of Giovannis life.

1978 saw the publication of what Anna T. Robinson has called her pivotal work, Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, a volume that Robinson surmised will mandate that she be evaluated as a poet rather than a voice for a cause. In contrast to the lightness suggested by the title, the poems in Cotton Candy are, as Martha Cook has observed, not lighthearted or optimistic, as the positive connotations of cotton candy suggest. The same year that Cotton Candy was published, Giovannis father had a stroke and Giovanni decided to move with her son back to her parents home in Lincoln Heights, Ohio.

Developed Academic Side of Career

Giovanni brought out her next major volume of poetry in 1983 entitled Those Who Ride the Night Wind, dedicated to the courage and fortitude of those who ride the night winds [for whom] Life is a marvelous, transitory adventureand are determined to push us into the next century, galaxypossibility. This volume has received mixed reviews. Fowler explained that Those Who Ride marks an important change in poetic form for Giovanni, a change characterized by a new lineless form, consisting of groups of words or phrases separated by ellipses having the appearance of prose paragraphs. Fowler noted that this new lineless form allows Giovanni to retain the rhythmic effects on which she, as an oral poet, has always relied and compared the effect to a quilt, a powerful symbol of female art and creativity.

Paula Giddings, writing in Mari Evanss Black Women Writers, however, is not as enthusiastic about Giovannis lineless form and calls the collection hollow and filled with fractious thinking. Overall Giddings observed that after 1975, as Giovannis persona matured, her language, craft, and perceptions did not. Giovannis readers, like Giddings, William J. Harris, and Haki Madhubuti, all praise the early promise of Giovannis poetry. As Giddings wrote, Giovannis greatest challenge, as a poet, lies ahead, and Harris, also writing in Mari Evanss anthology, praised Giovanni as one of the most talented writers to come out of the black sixties, adding that he didnt want to lose her. As Harris concluded, she has the talent to create good, perhaps important, poetry, if only she has the will to discipline her craft.

Between 1983 and 1996, Giovanni went on hiatus from publishing any new poetry. This did not mean that she stayed out of the public eye however, publishing essay collections such as Sacred Cows and Other Edibles in 1988 and Racism 101 in 1993. In 1989 Giovanni accepted a permanent position as a professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, leaving Ohio permanently for the first time since the late 1970s.

Rebounded From Serious Illness

In 1995 Giovanni made public that she had been suffering with cancer since the early 1990s and had to have numerous ribs and part of her lung removed in order to stop the spread of the disease. This accounted for her cutting back on promotional tours and for her lack of new poetry throughout most of the 1980s. It also explained to many critics and fans why she had chosen to teach and stay in a stable environment. But as Giovanni told Publishers Weekly, her choice to teach was almost inevitable, for if youre a poet you are trying to teach. I think being in a classroom keeps you up to date. I think that youd miss a lot if all you did was meet other writers; if you never saw another generation.

Giovanni used her time during her battle with cancer to rediscover her love of poetry and her purpose in the profession. As she commented to Jet magazine, You get this tumor and you dont die, so you feel you have this mission. Her mission to throw herself back into the literary world was one she took very seriously. In 1996 she published two childrens books, The Genie in the Jar and The Sun Is So Quiet and a year later, her first volume of poetry in fourteen years, Love Poems, hit bookstores. Like all of her previous material, it was well received by both critics and fans.

Giovanni began to do more touring as the 1990s came to a close, but remained faithful to her creative writing students at Virginia Polytechnic. She also produced another volume of poetry, Blues: For All the Changes: New Poems, in 1999, which contains poems on the subjects of nature, the little things that people look over or through everyday, as well as her personal battle with cancer. Also in 1999, she celebrated her 30th anniversary as writer, choosing to spend it with her students reading and writing poetry. The next few years were spent in the same fashion, with more public readings, but Giovanni also renewed her focus on social activism, examining the life of famous African Americans such as Tupac Shakur and Allen Iverson, as well as pushing for the exploration of space and other planets. She even spoke in front of NASA on this issue and her book Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: poems & not quite poems, which came out in 2002, dedicates much of its subject matter to the issue of African Americans being the best candidates to explore space and unknown territories. According to The Americas Intelligence Wire, Giovanni compared, the life of an astronaut going to Mars to the life of slaves on a boatin the middle of an ocean, not knowing which way was home anymore.

Over the years, Giovanni has been canonized by many educational programs and her works have been converted into numerous media formats. She has also received a plethora of awards, ranging from the National Book Award to the NAACP Woman of the Year award. Throughout all of the changes in her life, Giovanni has remained faithful to provoking radical thought through poetry and activism, even if the methods have changed. She told the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, Being radical in the 21st century is different from being radical in the 60s. Were a lot older now. Sometimes being radical is voting Green. Maybe we can get something done. Maybe life can be better.

Selected writings

Poetry

Black Feeling, Black Talk, Broadside Press, 1968, 3rd ed., 1970.

Black Judgement, Broadside Press, 1969.

Black Feeling, Black Talk/Black Judgement, Morrow, 1970.

Re: Creation, Broadside Press, 1970.

Spin a Soft Black Song: Poems for Children, Hill & Wang, 1971; rev. ed. 1985.

My House, Morrow, 1972.

Ego Tripping and Other Poems for Young People, Lawrence Hill, 1973.

The Women and the Men, Morrow, 1975.

Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, Morrow, 1978.

Vacation Time: Poems for Children, Morrow, 1980.

Those Who Ride the Night Winds, Morrow, 1983.

The Genie in the Jar, Holt, 1996.

The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni (1968-1995), Morrow, 1996.

The Sun Is So Quiet, Holt, 1996.

Love Poems, Morrow, 1997.

Blues: For All the Changes: New Poems, Morrow, 1999.

Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems, Morrow, 2002.

Nonfiction

(Editor) Night Comes Softly: An Anthology of Black Female Voices, Medic Press, 1970.

Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-Five Years of Being a Black Poet, Bobbs-Merrill, 1971; Viking, 1973; Penguin, 1976.

(With James Baldwin) A Dialogue: James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni, Lippincott, 1972.

(With Margaret Walker) A Poetic Equation: Conversations Between Nikki Giovanni and Margaret Walker, Howard University Press, 1974.

(Editor with Jessie Carney Smith) Images of Blacks in American Culture: A Reference Guide to Information Sources, Greenwood, 1988.

Sacred Cows and Other Edibles, Morrow, 1988.

(Editor with Cathee Dennison) Appalachian Elders: A Warm Hearth Sampler, Pocahontas Press, 1991.

Racism 101, Morrow, 1993.

(Editor) Grand Mothers: A Multicultural Anthology of Poems, Reminiscences and Short Stories About the Keepers of Our Tradition, 1994.

Sound recordings

Truth Is on Its Way, with the New York Community Choir, Benny Diggs, director, Right-On Records, 1971.

Like a Ripple on a Pond, with the New York Community Choir, Benny Diggs, director, NikTom, distributed by Atlantic Recording Corporation, 1973.

The Way I Feel, with music composed by Arif Mardin. NikTom Records, distributed by Atlantic Recording Corporation, 1975.

Legacies: The Poetry of Nikki Giovanni, Folkways Records, 1976.

The Reason I Like Chocolate, Folkways Records, 1976.

Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, Folkways Records, 1978.

Spirit to Spirit, videocassette of PBS production, directed by Mirra Banks, produced by Perrin Ireland, 1987.

Other

Adaptions: Spirit to Spirit: The Poetry of Nikki Giovanni, a poetry reading, produced by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Ohio Council on the Arts, directed by Mirra Banks, produced by Perrin Ireland, first aired in 1986. Performances: A Signal in the Land performed with the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra, 1987.

Contributor to numerous anthologies; author of columns One Womans Voice for Anderson-Moberg Syndicate of the New York Times and The Root of the Matter for Encore American and Worldwide News; managing editor of and contributor to Conversation; contributor to magazines, including Black Creation, Black World, Ebony, Encore, Essence, Freedomways, Journal of Black Poetry, Negro Digest, Saturday Review of Literature, and Umbra. Editorial consultant, Encore American and Worldwide News. A selection of Giovannis public papers are housed at Mugar Memorial Library of Boston University.

Sources

Books

Authors in the News, volume 1, Gale, 1976.

Barksdale, Richard, and Keneth Kinnamon, Black Writers of America: A Comprehensive Anthology, Macmillan, 1972.

Childrens Literature Review, volume 6, Gale, 1984.

Christian, Barbara, Black Feminist Criticism, Pergamon, 1985.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale, volume 2, 1974; volume 4, 1975; volume 9, 1981.

Cook, Martha, Nikki Giovanni: Place and Sense of Place in Her Poetry, Southern Women Writers:The New Generation, edited by Tonette Bond Inge, U of Alabama P, 1990.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 5, part 1: American Poets Since World War II, Gale, 1980; volume 41: Afro-American Poets Since 1955, Gale 1985.

Evans, Mari, editor, Black Women Writers, 1950-1980: A Critical Evaluation, Doubleday/Anchor Books, 1984.

Fowler, Virginia C, editor, Conversations With Nikki Giovanni, U Press of Mississippi, 1992. Fowler, Virginia C, Nikki Giovanni, Twayne, 1992.

Henderson, Stephen, Understanding the New Black Poetry: Black Speech and Black Music as Poetic References, Morrow, 1973.

Lee, Don L., Dynamic Voices I: Black Poets of the 1960s, Broadside Press, 1971.

McDowell, Margaret B., Groundwork for a More Comprehensive Criticism of Nikki Giovanni, Belief vs. Theory in Black American Literary Criticism, edited by Joe Weixlmann and Chester J. Fontenot, Penkevill Publishing Company, 1986.

Redmond, Eugene B. Drumvoices: The Mission of Afro-American Poetry, Anchor/Doubleday, 1976.

Robinson, Anna T. Nikki Giovanni: From Revolution to Revelation, State Library of Ohio, 1979.

Periodicals

American Visions, October 1999, p. 34.

Americas Intelligence Wire, February 6, 2003.

Black World, December 1970, pp. 102-104; January 1971; February 1971, pp. 62-64; April 1971; August 1971; August 1972, pp. 51-52; June 1973, pp. 14-21; July 1974, pp. 64-70.

Cincinnati Enquirer Magazine, July 8, 1973; April 20, 1986, pp. 4-8.

Ebony, February 1972; August 1972.

Essence, August 1981; March 1994.

Jet, May 22, 1995, p. 65.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 1974, p. 11.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, November 20, 2002.

Library Journal, February 15, 1988, p. 169; November 1, 1992, p. 85.

Mademoiselle, December 1969; May 1973; December 1973; September 1975.

Massachusetts Review, 18 (1977), pp. 542-554.

Negro Digest, April 1969, pp. 82-84.

Newsweek, January 31, 1972, pp. 80-81.

Phylon, 37 (1976), pp. 100-112.

Publishers Weekly, November 13, 1972; May 23, 1980; December 18, 1987, p. 48; December 13, 1993, p. 54; June 28, 1999, p. 46.

Saturday Review, January 15, 1972, p. 34.

Time, April 6, 1970; January 17, 1972, pp. 63-64.

Washington Post Book World, May 19, 1974; March 8, 1981; February 14, 1988, p. 3.

Writers Digest, February 1989, pp. 30-34.

Mary Katherine Wainwright and Ralph G. Zerbonia

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Giovanni, Nikki 1943–

Nikki Giovanni 1943

Writer, educator, performer

At a Glance

Kicked out of Fisk

Launched Writing Career

Poet of the People

Selected Writings

Sources

Nikki Giovanni began to be known in the late 1960s as one of the strongest voices of the newly emerging Black Arts movement. Along with other new black poets, such as Haki Madhubuti, Etheridge Knight, and Sonia Sanchez, Giovanni was published by Dudley Randalls Broadside Press. As Richard Barksdale and Keneth Kinnamon have written, these poets had a constructively emotional impact on the collective racial ego of black America. Giovanni in particular, declared Virginia C. Fowler in the introduction to Conversations With Nikki Giovanni, has been one of the most vital and eventually most famous voices in the Black Arts movements challenge to existing assumptions about poetry. With more than ten volumes of poetry to her credit, Nikki Giovanni has been instrumental in shaping the direction of contemporary black American poetry.

Nikki Giovanni was born on June 7, 1943, in Knoxville, Tennessee, to Jones and Yolande Watson Giovanni. Shortly after her birth, the family moved first to Woodlawn, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati, then to Wyoming, Ohio, and ultimately to the black community of Lincoln Heights, Ohio. Giovannis father often had to work several jobs during these years. Giovanni, however, described her childhoodspent with her parents and older sister Garywith vivid and fond details in what her biographer, Virginia Fowler, called Giovannis signature poem, NikkiRosa from Black Judgement. Knowing that readers will often draw false conclusions about the factual details of ones life, Giovanni says they will probably talk about my hard childhood/and never understand that/all the while I was quite happy.

Despite poverty, the Giovannis provided hundreds of books and a piano for their daughters. The most famous line of the poem summarizes Giovannis subjective experience of her childhood: Black love is black wealth. In 1957, Nikki Giovanni decided to return to what she regarded as her spiritual home, the home of her maternal grandparents, John Brown and Emma Louvenia Watson in Knoxville, Tennessee. Young Nikki, her sister, and cousins had spent many summer vacations and other holidays at their grandparents house. Louvenia Watsons strong spirit, Fowler mentioned in her book, gave her granddaughter a sense of belonging in the world. Fowler describes Giovannis radicalization process while she lived with her grandparents, saying that Louvenia instilled in her a belief in the importance of individual action, of the moral imperative to stand up and be counted whether your side wins or not.

At a Glance

Born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr., on June 7, 1943, in Knoxville, TN; daughter of Jones (a probation officer) and Yolande Watson Giovanni; children: Thomas Watson, August 31, 1969. Education: Fisk University, B.A., 1967; attended University of Cincinnati, 1961-63, University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work, 1967, Columbia University School of the Arts, 1968.

Queens College (CUNY) and Rutgers University, teacher, 1969; NikTom, Ltd. (communications company), founder and publisher, 1970; Ohio State University, visiting professor of English, 1984; Mount Joseph on the Ohio, professor of creative writing, 1985-87; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, visiting professor of English, 1987-89, professor of English, 1989; Warm Hearth Writers Workshop, director, 1988.

Member: State of Tennessee Literary Arts Festival, co-chair, 1986; Society of Magazine Writers, National Black Heroines for PUSH; Winnie Mandela Childrens Fund Committee; Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy, board of directors, 1990-93.

Selected awards: Mademoiselle magazine, Highest Achievement Award, 1971; National Association of Radio and Television Announcers award, 1972, for Truth Is on Its Way; National Council of Negro Women, life membership and scroll, 1973; Outstanding Woman of Tennessee, 1985; Cincinnati Post Post-Corbett Award, 1986; Oakland Museum Film Festival Silver Apple Award, 1988, for Spirit To Spirit; Ohioana Library Award, 1988, for Sacred Cows, Childrens Reading Roundtable of Chicago Award, 1988, for Vacation Time. Honorary degrees from numerous institutions.

Addresses: Office English Department, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061. Agent c/o William Morrow, Inc., 105 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10016.

Kicked out of Fisk

It was at Austin High School in Knoxville that Giovanni began her education in African American literature. According to Fowler, Giovannis English teacher throughout high school, Miss Alfredda Delaney, launched her on a course of reading Afro-American writers and required her to write about what she read. Giovanni left high school after the 11th grade because she was accepted to Fisk Universitys Early Entrants Program in 1960. However, she was dismissed after her first semester because she visited her grandparents at Thanksgiving without receiving formal permission from the University authorities.

In Gemini, Giovanni explained that she was released from the school because her attitudes did not fit those of a Fisk woman. Giovanni returned to her parents home in Cincinnati, where she began working at Walgreens Drug Store and taking classes at the University of Cincinnati. When she reentered Fisk in 1964, she engaged in literary and radical activities, including reestablishing the universitys chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), editing the student literary magazine, and participating in John O. Killens creative writing workshop.

Launched Writing Career

When Giovanni graduated with honors in history from Fisk in the spring of 1967, she returned to Cincinnati and continued her interests in writing and political activity that had been fostered at Fisk. Her articles and book reviews began appearing in periodicals such as Negro Digest and Black World, and the poetry she began to write formed her first volume, Black Feeling, Black Talk, which she published privately in 1968. Her grandmothers death in 1967 as much as the increasing activities of the Civil Rights movement provided the impetus for much of her poetry in Black Feeling, Black Talk.

And as Martha Cook explained, her other publications consistently attack[ed] elitism in the Black Arts movement and praised writers whom she viewed as presenting a realistic yet positive picture of black life, including new and established voices. Giovannis other post-graduate activities included organizing the first Cincinnati Black Arts Festival and Cincinnatis black theatrical group, The New Theatre. In May of 1967, Giovanni met H. Rap Brown at the Detroit Conference of Unity and Art, and, as Virginia Fowler described it, from this point forward, she was closely involved with many of the key figures of the Black Arts movement and the Black Power movement.

After a semester at the University of Pennsylvanias School of Social Work, in 1968, Giovanni moved to New York City, which would be her home for the next ten years. Although she received a grant from the National Foundation of the Arts to attend Columbia Universitys School of Fine Arts, she found she couldnt work with what Virginia Fowler labelled the conservative white literary critics who tried to tell her she could not write. At this point in 1968 Giovanni had her first collection of poetry privately published.

Giovannis second volume of poetry, Black Judgement, was published in 1969 with the assistance of a grant from the Harlem Council of the Arts. Sheila Weller of Mademoiselle magazine believed Giovanni to be one of the most powerful figures on the new black poetry sceneboth in language and appeal. Also during 1969, Giovanni gave birth to her son Thomas Watson Giovanni. Giovanni later told Peter Bailey of Ebony magazine that she had a baby because I wanted to have a baby and that she didnt marry the father because I didnt want to get married, and I could afford not to get married. According to Martha Cook, Giovanni has remained unmarried and has consistently viewed her single motherhood as a positive choice.

During 1969, Giovanni began teaching at Queens College and Rutgers University. In 1970, William Morrow combined Giovannis first two collections of poetry and published them under the title Black Feeling, Black Talk/ Black Judgement. During the same year, Dudley Randalls Broadside Press published Re: Creation, and in 1971, Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement was published. These volumes of poetry deal with both personal and political topics, and with them, as Fowler noted, Giovanni enters the dialogue of the 1960s about black identity. Fowler also identified the poems rage against white America that was largely responsible for earning her the label of revolutionary poet.

The strong voice of a black female poet was emerging. Fowler explained that the question of female identity addressed in only a few poems of Black Judgement is a central theme of Re: Creation, and Barbara Christian has written that when Giovanni addresses herself to the problems of the black woman she puts all her poetic force, rap, and rhythm into illuminating the situation. What readers perceived to be a shift in emphasis from the political to the personal caused Ruth McClain of Black World to lament Giovannis transformation into an almost declawed, tamed Panther with bad teeth.

Poet of the People

During the two years between the publication of 1970s Re:Creation and 1972s My House, Giovanni began to travel overseas, including her first trip to Africa. It was also during these years that she began to act on her philosophy that poetry is the culture of a people, by taking her poetry to the people, as Fowler concluded. Giovanni did so with the first of many sound recordings, Truth Is on Its Way, produced in collaboration with the New York Community Choir. In addition, she attended numerous public readings and appearancessometimes more than 200 in one yearincluding The Tonight Show on June 14, 1972, and Lincoln Centers Alice Tully Hall on July 25, 1972.

In an essay on black literary criticism, Margaret B. McDowell wrote that through Giovannis public readings and appearances she truly becomes poet of the people.. renew[ing] the tradition of the bard, prophet, or witness who sings or chants to inform the people. The poems contained in My House are suggestive of this time period in Giovannis life; in fact, Virginia Fowler suggested that if read as a whole they become a poetic autobiography of the first three decades of Giovannis life.

In 1970 Giovanni founded NikTom, Ltd., a communications company that produced many of her subsequent sound recordings. Her achievements included honorary doctorates from various universities and being awarded the 1974 Ladies Home Journal Woman of the Year Award. In 1978, she published what Anna T. Robinson has called her pivotal work, Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, a volume that Robinson surmised will mandate that she be evaluated as a poet rather than a voice for a cause.

In contrast to the lightness suggested by the title, the poems in Cotton Candy are, as Martha Cook has observed, not lighthearted or optimistic, as the positive connotations of cotton candy suggest. The same year that Cotton Candy was published, Giovannis father had a stroke and Giovanni decided to move with her son back to her parents home in Lincoln Heights, Ohio. Giovanni was to stay in Ohio until 1989, when she accepted a permanent position as a professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia.

1983 brought out Giovannis next major volume of poetry, Those Who Ride the Night Wind, dedicated to the courage and fortitude of those who ride the night winds [for whom] Life is a marvelous, transitory adventureand are determined to push us into the next century, galaxypossibility. This volume has received mixed reviews. Fowler explained that Those Who Ride marks an important change in poetic form for Giovanni, a change characterized by a new lineless form, consisting of groups of words or phrases separated by ellipses. having the appearance of prose paragraphs. Fowler noted that this new lineless form allows Giovanni to retain the rhythmic effects on which she, as an oral poet, has always relied and compared the effect to a quilt, a powerful symbol of female art and creativity.

Paula Giddings, writing in Mari Evans Black Women Writers, however, was not as enthusiastic about Giovannis lineless form and called the collection hollow and filled with fractious thinking. Overall Giddings observed that after 1975, as Giovannis persona matured, her language, craft, and perceptions did not. Giovannis readers, like Giddings, William J. Harris, and Haki Madhubuti, all praise the early promise of Giovannis poetry. As Giddings wrote, Giovannis greatest challenge, as a poet, lies ahead, and Harris, also writing in Mari Evanss anthology, praised Giovanni as one of the most talented writers to come out of the black sixties, adding that he didnt want to lose her. As Harris concluded, she has the talent to create good, perhaps important, poetry, if only she has the will to discipline her craft.

Throughout her poetic career, Giovanni has also published poetry for children, including Spin a Soft Black Song, 1971, Ego Tripping and Other Poems for Young Readers, 1973, Vacation Time, 1979; volumes of prose essays, including Gemini, 1971, Sacred Cows and Other Edibles, 1988, and Racism 101, 1993; and articles for numerous periodicals. Among her many honorary degrees, in 1988, she received an honorary doctorate of humanities from Fisk University.

Selected Writings

Poetry

Black Feeling, Black Talk, Broadside Press, 1968, 3rd ed., 1970.

Black Judgement, Broadside Press, 1969.

Black Feeling, Black Talk/Black Judgement, Morrow, 1979.

Re:Creation, Broadside Press, 1970.

Spin a Soft Black Song: Poems for Children, Hill & Wang, 1971; rev. ed. 1985.

My House, Morrow, 1972.

Ego Tripping and Other Poems for Young People, Lawrence Hill, 1973.

The Women and the Men, Morrow, 1975.

Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, Morrow, 1978.

Vacation Time: Poems for Children, Morrow, 1980.

Those Who Ride the Night Winds, Morrow, 1983.

Nonfiction

(Editor) Night Comes Softly: An Anthology of Black Female Voices, Medic Press, 1970.

Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-Five Years of Being a Black Poet, Bobbs-Merrill, 1971; Viking, 1973; Penguin, 1976.

(With James Baldwin) A Dialogue: James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni, Lippincott, 1972.

(With Margaret Walker) A Poetic Equation: Conversations Between Nikki Giovanni and Margaret Walker, Howard University Press, 1974.

(Editor with Jessie Camey Smith) Images of Blacks in American Culture: A Reference Guide to Information Sources, Greenwood, 1988.

Sacred Cows . and Other Edibles, Morrow, 1988.

(Editor with Cathee Dennison) Appalachian Elders: A Warm Hearth Sampler, Pocahontas Press, 1991.

Racism 101, Morrow, 1993.

(Editor) Grand/Mothers: A Multicultural Anthology of Poems, Reminiscences and Short Stories About the Keeps of Our Tradition, 1994.

Sound Recordings

Truth Is on Its Way, with the New York Community Choir, Benny Diggs, director, Right-On Records, 1971.

Like a Ripple on a Pond, with the New York Community Choir, Benny Diggs, director, NikTom, distributed by Atlantic Recording Corporation, 1973.

The Way I Feel, with music composed by Arif Mardin. NikTom Records, distributed by Atlantic Recording Corporation, 1975.

Legacies: The Poetry of Nikki Giovanni, Folkways Records, 1976.

The Reason I Like Chocolate, Folkways Records, 1976.

Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, Folkways Records, 1978.

Spirit to Spirit, videocassette of PBS production, directed by Mirra Banks, produced by Perrin Ireland, 1987.

Adaptions: Spirit to Spirit: The Poetry of Nikki Giovanni, a poetry reading, produced by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Ohio Council on the Arts, directed by Mirra Banks, produced by Perrin Ireland, first aired in 1986. Performances: A Signal in the Land performed with the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra, 1987.

Contributor to numerous anthologies; author of columns One Womans Voice for Anderson-Moberg Syndicate of the New York Times and The Root of the Matter for Encore American and Worldwide News; managing editor of and contributor to Conversation; contributor to magazines, including Black Creation, Black World, Ebony, Encore, Essence, Freedomways, Journal of Black Poetry, Negro Digest, Saturday Review of Literature, and Umbra. Editorial consultant, Encore American and Worldwide News.

A selection of Giovannis public papers are housed at Mugar Memorial Library of Boston University.

Sources

Books

Authors in the News, volume 1, Gale, 1976.

Barksdale, Richard, and Keneth Kinnamon, Black Writers of America: A Comprehensive Anthology, Macmillan, 1972.

Childrens Literature Review, volume 6, Gale, 1984.

Christian, Barbara, Black Feminist Criticism, Perga-mon, 1985.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale, volume 2, 1974; volume 4, 1975; volume 9, 1981.

Cook, Martha, Nikki Giovanni: Place and Sense of Place in Her Poetry, Southern Women Writers: The New Generation, edited by Tonette Bond Inge, U of Alabama P, 1990.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gale, volume 5, part 1: American Poets Since World War II, 1980; volume 41: Afro-American Poets Since 1955, 1985.

Evans, Mari, editor, Black Women Writers, 1950-1980: A Critical Evaluation, Doubleday/Anchor Books, 1984.

Fowler, Virginia C., editor, Conversations With Nikki Giovanni, U Press of Mississippi, 1992.

Fowler, Virginia C., Nikki Giovanni, Twayne, 1992.

Henderson, Stephen, Understanding the New Black Poetry: Black Speech and Black Music as Poetic: References, Morrow, 1973.

Lee, Don L., Dynamic Voices I: Black Poets of the1960s, Broadside Press, 1971.

McDowell, Margaret B., Groundwork for a More Comprehensive Criticism of Nikki Giovanni, Belief vs. Theory in Black American Literary Criticism, edited by Joe Weixlmann and Chester J. Fontenot, Penkevill Publishing Company, 1986.

Redmond, Eugene B. Drumvoices: The Mission of Afro- American Poetry, Anchor/Doubleday, 1976.

Robinson, AnnaT. Nikki Giovanni: From Revolution to Revolution, State Library of Ohio, 1979.

Periodicals

Black World, December 1970, pp. 102-4; January 1971; February 1971, pp. 62-4; April 1971; August 1971; August 1972, pp. 51-2; June 1973, pp. 14-21;July 1974, pp. 64-70..

Cincinnati Enquirer Magazine, July 8, 1973; April 20,1986, pp. 4-8.

Ebony, February 1972; August 1972.

Essence, August 1981; March 1994.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 1974, p. 11.

Library Journal, February 15, 1988, p. 169; November 1, 1992, p. 85.

Mademoiselle, December 1969; May 1973; December 1973; September 1975.

Massachusetts Review, 18 (1977), pp. 542-54.

Negro Digest, April 1969, pp. 82-4.

Newsweek, January 31, 1972, pp. 80-1.

Phylon, 37 (1976), pp. 100-12.

Publishers Weekly, November 13,1972; May 23,1980; December 18,1987, p. 48; December 13,1993, p. 54.

Saturday Review, January 15, 1972, p. 34.

Time, April 6, 1970; January 17, 1972, pp.. 63-4.

Washington Post Book World, May 19, 1974; March 8,1981; February 14, 1988, p. 3.

Writers Digest, February 1989, pp. 30-4.

Mary Katherine Wainwright

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Giovanni, Nikki 1943–

Giovanni, Nikki 1943–

(Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr.)

PERSONAL: Born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr., June 7, 1943, in Knoxville, TN; daughter of Gus Jones (a probation Officer) and Yolande Cornelia (a social worker; maiden name, Watson) Giovanni; children: Thomas Watson. Ethnicity: "Black." Education: Fisk University, B.A. (with honors), 1967; postgraduate studies at University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work and Columbia University School of Fine Arts, 1968.

ADDRESSES: Office—English Department, Shanks Hall, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Poet, writer, and lecturer. Queens College of the City University of New York, Flushing, assistant professor of black studies, 1968; Rutgers University, Livingston College, New Brunswick, NJ, associate professor of English, 1968–72; Ohio State University, Columbus, visiting professor of English, 1984; College of Mount St. Joseph on the Ohio, Mount St. Joseph, Ohio, professor of creative writing, 1985–87; Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, professor of English, 1987–99, Gloria D. Smith Professor of Black Studies, 1997–99, university distinguished professor, 1999–; Texas Christian University, visiting professor in humanities, 1991. Founder of publishing firm, NikTom Ltd., 1970; participated in "Soul at the Center," Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, 1972; Duncanson Artist-in-Residence, Taft Museum, Cincinnati, 1986; Cochair, Literary Arts Festival for State of Tennessee Homecoming, 1986; director, Warm Hearth Writer's Workshop, 1988–; appointed to Ohio Humanities Council, 1987; member of board of directors, Virginia Foundation for Humanities and Public Policy, 1990–93; participant in Appalachian Community Fund, 1991–93, and Volunteer Action Center, 1991–94; featured poet, International Poetry Festival, Utrecht, Holland, 1991. Has given numerous poetry readings and lectures worldwide and appeared on numerous television talk shows.

MEMBER: National Council of Negro Women, Society of Magazine Writers, National Black Heroines for PUSH, Winnie Mandela Children's Fund Committee, Delta Sigma Theta (honorary member).

AWARDS, HONORS: Grants from Ford Foundation, 1967, National Endowment for the Arts, 1968, and Harlem Cultural Council, 1969; named one of ten "Most Admired Black Women," Amsterdam News, 1969; outstanding achievement award, Mademoiselle, 1971; Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Award, 1971, for outstanding contribution to arts and letters; Meritorious Plaque for Service, Cook County Jail, 1971; Prince Matchabelli Sun Shower Award, 1971; life membership and scroll, National Council of Negro Women, 1972; National Association of Radio and Television Announcers Award, 1972, for recording Truth Is on Its Way; Woman of the Year Youth Leadership Award, Ladies' Home Journal, 1972; National Book Award nomination, 1973, for Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-five Years of Being a Black Poet; Best Books for Young Adults citation, American Library Association, 1973, for My House;Woman of the Year citation, Cincinnati Chapter of YWCA, 1983; elected to Ohio Women's Hall of Fame, 1985; Outstanding Woman of Tennessee citation, 1985; Post-Corbett Award, 1986; Spirit to Spirit received the Silver Apple Award from Oakland Museum Film Festival; Woman of the Year, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (Lynchburg chapter), 1989. Honorary Doctorate of Humanities, Wilberforce University, 1972, and Fisk University, 1988; Honorary Doctorate of Literature, University of Maryland (Princess Anne Campus), 1974, Ripon University, 1974, and Smith College, 1975; Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, College of Mount St. Joseph on the Ohio, 1985, Indiana University, 1991, Otterbein College, 1992, Widener University, 1993, Albright College, 1995, Cabrini College, 1995, and Allegheny College, 1997; Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Manhattanville College, 2000; Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Central State University, 2001. Keys to numerous cities, including Dallas, TX, New York, NY, Cincinnati, OH, Miami, FL, New Orleans, LA, and Los Angeles, CA; Ohioana Book Award, 1988; Jeanine Rae Award for the Advancement of Women's Culture, 1995; Langston Hughes Award, 1996; NAACP Image award, 1998; Tennessee Governor's award, 1998; Virginia Governor's Award for the Arts 2000; SHero Award for Lifetime Achievement, 2002; the first Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award, 2002; Black Caucus Award for nonfiction, American Library Association, and NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, both 2003, both for Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems.

WRITINGS:

POETRY

Black Feeling, Black Talk, Broadside Press (Detroit, MI), 1968, 3rd edition, 1970.

Black Judgement, Broadside Press (Detroit, MI), 1968.

Black Feeling, Black Talk/Black Judgement (contains Black Feeling, Black Talk, and Black Judgement), Morrow (New York, NY), 1970, selection published as Knoxville, Tennessee, illustrated by Larry Johnson, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.

Re: Creation, Broadside Press (Detroit, MI), 1970.

Poem of Angela Yvonne Davis, Afro Arts (New York, NY), 1970.

Spin a Soft Black Song: Poems for Children, illustrated by Charles Bible, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1971, illustrated by George Martins, Lawrence Hill (Westport, CT), 1985, revised edition, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1987.

My House, foreword by Ida Lewis, Morrow (New York, NY), 1972.

Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People, illustrated by George Ford, Lawrence Hill (Chicago, IL), 1973.

The Women and the Men, Morrow (New York, NY), 1975.

Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, introduction by Paula Giddings, Morrow (New York, NY), 1978.

Vacation Time: Poems for Children, illustrated by Marisabina Russo, Morrow (New York, NY), 1980.

Those Who Ride the Night Winds, Morrow (New York, NY), 1983.

The Genie in the Jar, illustrated by Chris Raschka, Holt, 1996.

The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni, 1968–1995, Morrow (New York, NY), 1996.

The Sun Is So Quiet, illustrated by Ashley Bryant, Holt (New York, NY), 1996.

Love Poems, Morrow (New York, NY), 1997.

Blues: For All the Changes: New Poems, Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.

Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems, Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.

Prosaic Soul of Nikki Giovanni, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968–1998, Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.

Girls in the Circle, illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.

OTHER

(Editor) Night Comes Softly: An Anthology of Black Female Voices, Medic Press (Newark, NJ), 1970.

Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-five Years of Being a Black Poet, Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1971.

Truth Is on Its Way (album), Atlantis, 1971.

(With James Baldwin) A Dialogue: James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1973.

Like a Ripple on a Pond (album), Collectibles, 1973.

(With Margaret Walker) A Poetic Equation: Conversations between Nikki Giovanni and Margaret Walker, Howard University Press (Washington, DC), 1974.

The Way I Feel (album), Atlantic, 1975.

Legacies—The Poetry Of Nikki Giovanni—Read By Nikki Giovanni (album), Folkways, 1976.

The Reason I Like Chocolate (And Other Children's Poems) (album), Folkways, 1976.

Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day (album), Folkways, 1978.

(Author of introduction) Adele Sebastian: Intro to Fine (poems), Woman in the Moon, 1985.

Sacred Cows … and Other Edibles (essays), Morrow (New York, NY), 1988.

(Editor, with C. Dennison) Appalachian Elders: A Warm Hearth Sampler, Pocahontas Press (Blacksburg, VA), 1991.

(Author of foreword) The Abandoned Baobob: The Autobiography of a Woman, Chicago Review Press (Chicago, IL), 1991.

Nikki Giovanni and the New York Community Choir (album), Collectibles, 1993.

Racism 101 (essays), Morrow (New York, NY), 1994.

(Editor) Grand Mothers: Poems, Reminiscences, and Short Stories about the Keepers of Our Traditions, Holt (New York, NY), 1994.

(Editor) Shimmy Shimmy Shimmy Like My Sister Kate: Looking at the Harlem Renaissance through Poems, Holt (New York, NY), 1995.

In Philadelphia (album), Collectibles, 1997.

Stealing Home: For Jack Robinson (album), Sony, 1997.

(Editor) Grand Fathers: Reminiscences, Poems, Recipes, and Photos of the Keepers of Our Traditions, Holt (New York, NY), 1999.

Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like the Rivers (compilation), Rhino, 2000.

(Author of foreword) Margaret Ann Reid, Black Protest Poetry: Polemics from the Harlem Renaissance and the Sixties, Peter Lang (New York, NY), 2001.

The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection (CD), HarperAudio, 2002.

Rosa (children's book), illustrated by Bryan Collier, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to Voices of Diversity: The Power of Book Publishing, a videotape produced by the Diversity Committee of the Association of American Publishers and Kaufman Films, 2002. Contributor to numerous anthologies. Contributor of columns to newspapers. Contributor to periodicals, including Black Creation, Black World, Ebony, Essence, Freedom Ways, Journal of Black Poetry, Negro Digest, and Umbra. Editorial consultant, Encore American and Worldwide News.

A selection of Giovanni's public papers is housed at Mugar Memorial Library, Boston University.

ADAPTATIONS: Spirit to Spirit: The Poetry of Nikki Giovanni (television film), 1986, produced by Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Ohio Council on the Arts.

SIDELIGHTS: One of the best-known African-American poets to reach prominence during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Nikki Giovanni has continued to create poems that encompass a life fully experienced. Her unique and insightful verses testify to her own evolving awareness and experiences as a woman of color: from child to young woman, from naive college freshman to seasoned civil rights activist, and from daughter to mother. Frequently anthologized, Giovanni's poetry expresses strong racial pride and respect for family. Her informal style makes her work accessible to both adults and children. In addition to collections such as Re: Creation, Spin a Soft Black Song, and Those Who Ride the Night Winds, Giovanni has published several works of nonfiction, including Racism 101 and the anthology Grand Mothers: Poems, Reminiscences, and Short Stories about the Keepers of Our Traditions. A frequent lecturer and reader, Giovanni has also taught at Rutgers University, Ohio State University, and Virginia Tech.

Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1943, the younger of two daughters in a close-knit family, and had a reputation for being strong-willed even as a child. She gained an intense appreciation for her African-American heritage from her outspoken grandmother, Louvenia Terrell Watson, Giovanni. "I come from a long line of storytellers," she once explained in an interview, describing how her family influenced her poetry through oral traditions. "My grandfather was a Latin scholar and he loved the myths, and my mother is a big romanticist, so we heard a lot of stories growing up." This early exposure to the power of spoken language would influence Giovanni's career as a poet, particularly her tendency to sprinkle her verses with colloquialisms, including curse words. "I appreciated the quality and the rhythm of the telling of the stories," she once commented, "and I know when I started to write that I wanted to retain that—I didn't want to become the kind of writer that was stilted or that used language in ways that could not be spoken. I use a very natural rhythm; I want my writing to sound like I talk."

When Giovanni was a young child, she moved with her parents from Knoxville to a predominantly black suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. She remained close to her grandmother, however, spending both her sophomore and junior years of high school at the family home in Knoxville. Encouraged by several schoolteachers, Giovanni enrolled early at Fisk University, a prestigious, all-black college in Nashville, Tennessee. Unaccustomed to Fisk's traditions, the outspoken young woman came into conflict with the school's dean of women and was asked to leave. She returned to Fisk in 1964, however, determined to be an ideal student. She accomplished her goal, becoming a leader in political and literary activities on campus during what would prove to be an important era in black history.

Giovanni had experienced racism firsthand during her childhood in the South. Random violence that erupted in and near Knoxville "was frightening," she later recalled in an autobiographical essay for CA. "You always felt someone was trying to kill you."Yet when Giovanni re-entered the freshman class at Fisk she had not yet found her later radical stance. She was decidedly conservative in political outlook: during high school she had been a supporter of Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, as well as an avid reader of books by Ayn Rand, famous for her philosophy of "objectivism" (based on self-assertion, individualism, and competition). The poet credits a Fisk roommate named Bertha with successfully persuading her to embrace revolutionary ideals. In the wake of the civil rights movement and demonstrations against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict, demands for social and political change were sweeping college campuses around the country. "Bertha kept asking, 'how could Black people be conservative?', " Giovanni wrote in Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-five Years. "'What have they got to conserve?' And after a while (realizing that I had absolutely nothing, period) I came around."

While Giovanni was at Fisk, a black renaissance was emerging as writers and other artists of color were finding new ways of expressing their distinct culture to an increasingly interested public. As Chauncey Mabe put it in a November, 2002, Knight Ridder article, "The Black Arts Movement [was] a loosely organized aesthetic and political movement that rejected European concepts of art for its own sake, insisting instead that art must benefit and uplift blacks." In addition to serving as editor of the campus literary magazine, Elan, and participating in the Fisk Writers Workshop, Giovanni worked to restore the Fisk chapter of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). At that time, the organization was pressing the concept of "black power" to bring about social and economic reform. Giovanni's political activism ultimately led to her planning and directing the first Black Arts Festival in Cincinnati, held in 1967.

Later that year, Giovanni graduated magna cum laude with a degree in history. She decided to continue her studies at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work under a grant from the Ford Foundation, and then took classes at Columbia University's School of Fine Arts. This period was darkened, however, when Giovanni's beloved grandmother died. The loss "stirred in her a sense of guilt and shame both for the way in which society had dealt with this strong, sensitive woman, to whom she had been so close and who had deeply influenced her life, as well as for the way she herself had left her alone to die," according to Mozella G. Mitchell in the Dictionary of Literary Biography.

Giovanni's first published volumes of poetry grew out of her response to the assassinations of such figures as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Robert Kennedy, and the pressing need she saw to raise awareness of the plight and the rights of black people. Black Feeling, Black Talk (which she borrowed money to publish) and Black Judgement (with a grant from Harlem Council of the Arts) display a strong, militant African-American perspective as Giovanni explores her growing political and spiritual awareness. "Poem (No Name No. 2)," from the first volume shows the simple forcefulness of her voice: "Bitter Black Bitterness / Black Bitter Bitterness / Bitterness Black Brothers / Bitter Black Get / Blacker Get Bitter / Get Black Bitterness / NOW." "These were the years," as Calvin Reid in a 1999 Publishers Weekly article observed, "she published such poems as 'Great Pax Whitie' (1968), with its intermingling of classical history, irony and antiracist outrage, and 'Woman Poem,' which considered the social and sexual limits imposed on black women."

These early books, which were followed by Re: Creation, quickly established Giovanni as a prominent new African-American voice. Black Feeling, Black Talk, "sold more than ten thousand copies in its first year alone, making the author an increasingly visible and popular figure on the reading and speaking circuit. Because of Giovanni's overt activism, her fame as a personality almost preceded her critical acclaim as a poet. She gave the first public reading of her work at Bird-land, a trendy New York City jazz club, to a standing-room-only audience." Mitchell described the poems Giovanni produced between 1968 and 1970 as "a kind of ritualistic exorcism of former nonblack ways of thinking and an immersion in blackness. Not only are they directed at other black people whom [Giovanni] wanted to awaken to the beauty of blackness, but also at herself as a means of saturating her own consciousness." Dictionary of Literary Biographycontributor Alex Batman heard in Giovanni's verse the echoes of blues music. "Indeed the rhythms of her verse correspond so directly to the syncopations of black music that her poems begin to show a potential for becoming songs without accompaniment," Batman noted.

Critical reaction to Giovanni's early work focused on her more revolutionary poetry. Some reviewers found her political and social positions to be unsophisticated, while others were threatened by her rebelliousness. "Nikki writes about the familiar: what she knows, sees, experiences," Don L. Lee observed in Dynamite Voices I: Black Poets of the 1960s."It is clear why she conveys such urgency in expressing the need for Black awareness, unity, solidarity…. What is perhaps more important is that when the Black poet chooses to serve as political seer, he must display a keen sophistication. Sometimes Nikki oversimplifies and therefore sounds rather naive politically." A contributor to the Web site Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of Color added, however, "In A Poetic Equation: Conversations between Nikki Giovanni and Margaret Walker, she again raises the issue of revolution. When Walker says to Giovanni, 'I don't believe individual defiant acts like these will make for the revolution you want,' Giovanni replies, 'No, don't ever misunderstand me and my use of the term "revolution." I could never believe that having an organization was going to cause a revolution'. Throughout A Poetic Equation, the two talk about issues from how to raise a child to the Vietnam War to how to save the African-American race that white America is trying to destroy."

Giovanni's first three volumes of poetry were enormously successful, answering as they did a need for inspiration, anger, and solidarity in those who read them. She was among those who publicly expressed the feelings of people who had felt voiceless, vaulting beyond the usual relatively low public demand for modern poetry. Black Judgement alone sold six thousand copies in three months, almost six times the sales level expected of a book of its type. As she traveled to speaking engagements at colleges around the country, Giovanni was often hailed as one of the leading black poets of the new black renaissance. The prose poem "Nikki-Rosa," Giovanni's reminiscence of her childhood in a close-knit African-American home, was first published in Black Judgement. In becoming her most beloved and most anthologized work, "Nikki-Rosa" also expanded her appeal to an audience well beyond followers of her more activist poetry. During this time, she also made television appearances, out of which the published conversation with Margaret Walker and one with James Baldwin emerged.

In 1969, Giovanni took a teaching position at Rutgers University. That year she also gave birth to her son, Thomas. Her decision to have a child out of wedlock was understandable to anyone who knew her. Even as a young girl she had determined that the institution of marriage was not hospitable to women and would never play a role in her life. "I had a baby at twenty-five because I wanted to have a baby and I could afford to have a baby," she told an Ebony interviewer. "I did not get married because I didn't want to get married and I could afford not to get married."

Following her success as a poet of the black revolution, Giovanni's work exhibited a shift in focus after the birth of her son. Her priorities had shifted to encompass providing her child with the security of a stable home life. As she remarked to an interviewer for Harper's Bazaar, "To protect Tommy there is no question I would give my life. I just cannot imagine living without him. But I can live without the revolution." During this period Giovanni produced a collection of autobiographical essays, two books of poetry for children, and two poetry collections for adults. She also made several recordings of her poetry set against a gospel or jazz backdrop. Martha Cook, in an article in Southern Women Writers, explained, "'Truth Is on Its Way' includes a number of poems from Giovanni's Broadside volumes, with music by the New York Community Choir under the direction of Benny Diggs. According to Harper's Bazaar, Giovanni introduced the album at a free concert in a church in Harlem. Following her performance, 'the audience shouted its appreciation'." Reviewing these works, Mitchell noticed "evidence of a more developed individualism and greater introspection, and a sharpening of her creative and moral powers, as well as of her social and political focus and understanding."

In addition to writing her own poetry, Giovanni used her boundless energy to offer exposure for other African-American women writers through NikTom, Ltd., a publishing cooperative she founded in 1970. Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker, Carolyn Rodgers, and Mari Evans were among those who benefited from Giovanni's work in the cooperative. Travels to other parts of the world, including the Caribbean, also filled much of the poet's time and contributed to the evolution of her work. As she broadened her perspective, Giovanni began to review her own life. Her introspection led to Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-five Years of Being a Black Poet, which earned a nomination for the National Book Award.

Gemini is a combination of prose, poetry, and other "bits and pieces." In the words of a critic writing in Kirkus Reviews, it is a work in which "the contradictions are brought together by sheer force of personality." From sun-soaked childhood memories of a supportive family to an adult acceptance of revolutionary ideology and solo motherhood, the work reflected Giovanni's internal conflict and self-questioning. "I think all autobiography is fiction," Giovanni once observed in an interview, expressing amazement that readers feel they will learn something personal about an author by reading a creative work. "The least factual of anything is autobiography, because half the stuff is forgotten," she added. "Even if you [write] about something terribly painful, you have removed yourself from it…. What you have not come to terms with you do not write." While she subtitled Gemini an autobiography, Giovanni denied that it offered a key to her inner self. But the essays contained in the volume—particularly one about her grandmother—were personal in subject matter and "as true as I could make it," she commented. But, as Giovanni noted in an interview several decades later, "I also recognize that there are [parts of] the book in which I'm simply trying to deal with ideas. I didn't want it to be considered the definitive. It's far from that. It's very selective and how I looked at myself when I was twenty-five."

In addition to writing for adults in Gemini and other works during the early 1970s, Giovanni began to compose verse for children. Among her published volumes for young readers are Spin a Soft Black Song, Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People, and Vacation Time. Written for children of all ages, Giovanni's poems are unrhymed incantations of childhood images and feelings. Spin a Soft Black Song, which she dedicated to her son, Tommy, covers a wealth of childhood interests, such as basketball games, close friends, moms, and the coming of spring. "Poem for Rodney" finds a young man contemplating what he wants to be when he grows up. "If" reflects a young man's daydreams about what it might have been like to participate in a historic event. In a New York Times Book Review article on Spin a Soft Black Song, Nancy Klein noted, "Nikki Giovanni's poems for children, like her adult works, exhibit a combination of casual energy and sudden wit. No cheek-pinching auntie, she explores the contours of childhood with honest affection, sidestepping both nostalgia and condescension."

Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People contains several poems previously published in Black Feeling, Black Talk. Focusing on African-American history, the collection explores issues and concerns specific to black youngsters. In "Poem for Black Boys," for example, Giovanni wonders why young boys of color do not play runaway slave or Mau-Mau, identifying with the brave heroes of their own race rather than the white cowboys of the Wild West. "Revolutionary Dreams" and "Revolutionary Music" speak to the racial strife of the 1960s and 1970s and look toward an end to racial tension. Commenting on Ego-Tripping, a Kirkus Reviews contributor claimed: "When [Giovanni] grabs hold … it's a rare kid, certainly a rare black kid, who could resist being picked right up."

Vacation Time contrasts with Giovanni's two earlier poetry collections for children by being "a much more relaxed and joyous collection which portrays the world of children as full of wonder and delight," according to Kay E. Vandergrift in Twentieth-Century Children's Writers. In Vacation Time Giovanni uses more traditional rhyme patterns than in Spin a Soft Black Song. Reviewing the work for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Zena Sutherland argued that the rhythms often seem forced and that Giovanni uses "an occasional contrivance to achieve scansion." But other critics praised the poet's themes. "In her singing lines, Giovanni shows she hadn't forgotten childhood adventures in … exploring the world with a small person's sense of discovery," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Mitchell, too, claimed: "One may be dazzled by the smooth way [Giovanni] drops all political and personal concerns [in Vacation Time] and completely enters the world of the child and brings to it all the fanciful beauty, wonder, and lollipopping."

Giovanni's later works for children, include Knoxville, Tennessee and The Sun Is So Quiet. The first work, a free-verse poem originally published in Black Feeling, Black Talk, Black Judgement, celebrates the pleasures of summer. Many of the warm images presented in the picture book came directly from the author's childhood memories. Ellen Fader, writing in Horn Book, called The Sun Is So Quiet "a celebration of African-American family life for all families." Published in 1996, The Sun Is So Quiet is a collection of thirteen poems, ranging in topics from snowflakes to bedtime to missing teeth. "The poems," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "hover like butterflies, darting in to make their point and then fluttering off."

Giovanni says she has found writing for children particularly fulfilling because she is a mother who reads to her son. "Mostly I'm aware, as the mother of a reader, that I read to him," she once observed in an interview. "I think all of us know that your first line to the child is going to be his parent, so you want to write something that the parent likes and can share." According to Mitchell, the children's poems have "essentially the same impulse" as Giovanni's adult poetry—namely, "the creation of racial pride and the communication of individual love. These are the goals of all of Giovanni's poetry, here directed toward a younger and more impressionable audience." Love is not excluded by outrage.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Giovanni's popularity as a speaker and lecturer increased along with her success as a poet and children's author. She received numerous awards for her work, including honors from the National Council of Negro Women and the National Association of Radio and Television Announcers. She was featured in articles for such magazines as Ebony, Jet, and Harper's Bazaar. She also continued to travel, making trips to Europe and Africa.

Giovanni's sophistication and maturity continue to grow in My House. Her viewpoint, still firmly seated in black revolutionary consciousness, expanded further, balancing a wide range of social concerns. Her rhymes became more pronounced, more lyrical, more gentle. The themes of family love, loneliness, and frustration, which Giovanni had raged over in her earlier works, find softer expression in My House. "My House is not just poems," commented Kalumu Ya Salaam in Black World. "My House is how it is, what it is to be a young, single, intelligent Black woman with a son and no man. It is what it is to be a woman who has failed and is now sentimental about some things, bitter about some things, and generally always frustrated, always feeling frustrated on one of various levels or another." In a review for Contemporary Women Poets, Jay S. Paul called the book "a poetic tour through … a place rich with family remembrance, distinctive personalities, and prevailing love." And in the foreword to My House, Ida Lewis observed that Giovanni "has reached a simple philosophy more or less to the effect that a good family spirit is what produces healthy communities, which is what produces a strong (Black) nation."Noting the continued focus on self-discovery and the connectedness of self to community throughout My House, critic John W. Conner suggested in English Journal that Giovanni "sees her world as an extension of herself … sees problems in the world as an extension of her problems, and … sees herself existing amidst tensions, heartache, and marvelous expressions of love." My House contained the revelations of a woman coming to terms with her life. The Women and the Men continued this trend.

When Giovanni published Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, critics viewed it as one of her most somber works, singing a note of grief. They noted the focus on emotional ups and downs, fear and insecurity, and the weight of everyday responsibilities. Batman also observed the poet's frustration at aims unmet. "What distinguishes Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day is its poignancy," the critic maintained. "One feels throughout that here is a child of the 1960s mourning the passing of a decade of conflict, of violence, but most of all, of hope."

During the year Cotton Candy was published, Giovanni's father suffered a stroke. She and her son immediately left their apartment in New York City and returned to the family home in Cincinnati to help her mother cope with her father's failing health. After her father's death, Giovanni and her son continued to stay in Cincinnati with her mother. Giovanni thus ensured the same secure, supportive, multigenerational environment for Tommy that she had enjoyed as a child.

The poems in Vacation Time turn again to reflect, perhaps, the poet's growing lightness of spirit and inner stability as she enjoys her family. Similarly, Those Who Ride the Night Winds reveals "a new and innovative form," according to Mitchell, who added that "the poetry reflects her heightened self-knowledge and imagination." Those Who Ride the Night Winds echoes the political activism of Giovanni's early verse as she dedicates various pieces to Phillis Wheatley, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks. In Sacred Cows … and Other Edibles she presents essays on a wide range of topics: African-American political leaders, national holidays, and termites all come under her insightful and humorous scrutiny. Such essays as "Reflections on My Profession," "Four Introductions," and "An Answer to Some Questions on How I Write" were described by Washington Post Book World critic Marita Golden as "quintessential Nikki Giovanni—sometimes funny, nervy and unnerving with flashes of wisdom."

As Giovanni moved through her middle years, her works continued to reflect her changing concerns and perspectives. The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni, 1968–1995, which spans the first three decades of her career, was heralded by Booklist critic Donna Seaman as a "rich synthesis [that] reveals the evolution of Giovanni's voice and charts the course of the social issues that are her muses, issues of gender and race." Twenty of the fifty-three works collected in Love Poems find the writer musing on subjects as diverse as friendship, sexual desire, motherhood, and loneliness, while the remainder of the volume includes relevant earlier works. "Funny yet thoughtful, Giovanni celebrates creative energy and the family spirit of African-American communities," Frank Allen wrote of Love Poems in a Library Journal review.

Giovanni continues to supplement her poetry with occasional volumes of nonfiction. In Racism 101 she looks back over the past thirty years as one who influenced the civil rights movement and its aftermath. Characterized by a Publishers Weekly reviewer as "fluid, often perceptive musings that beg for more substance," this collection of essays touches on diverse topics. Giovanni gives advice to young African-American scholars who are just starting an academic career, and she reflects on her own experiences as a teacher. She also provides a few glimpses into her personal life—for instance, she admits to being a confirmed "Trekkie." The book is a rich source of impressions of other black intellectuals, including writer and activist W.E.B. DuBois, writers Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Toni Morrison, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and filmmaker Spike Lee. "Giovanni is a shrewd observer and an exhilarating essayist," maintained Seaman in Booklist, "modulating her tone from chummy to lethal, hilarious to sagacious as smoothly as a race-car driver shifts gears." She does not believe in padding black realities in cotton wool and rainbows, admiring Native American writer Sherman Alexie for his honesty about "warts and all" depictions of Indian life. In addition to publishing original writings, Giovanni has edited poetry collections like the highly praised Shimmy Shimmy Shimmy Like My Sister Kate. A compilation of works composed by African-American writers during the Harlem Renaissance of the early twentieth century, Shimmy helps students of black writing to gain an understanding of the past.

Giovanni told Mabe that the Black Arts movement wasn't about presenting black culture as "Hallmark" perfect, and she feels that "the hip-hop movement took that from us, as we took it from the Harlem Renaissance before us." She is an avid supporter of hip-hop, "calling it," as she said to Mabe, "the modern equivalent of what spirituals meant to earlier generations of blacks. She admires OutKast, Arrested Development, Queen Latifah, and above all, Tupac Shakur. "We're missing Tupac like my generation missed Malcolm X," she said. "It's been six years and people feel like he was just here. He brought truth and we're still trying to learn what he was trying to teach us." Rather than trying to imitate black culture, white rappers, Giovanni noted, could get at the heart of racialism in America. "It would be great to learn from whites why white supremacy is so prevalent. Most people have rejected it, but they still know something about it they aren't saying. I want them to jump into hip-hop and address it."

Two new volumes, Blues: For All the Changes and Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems mark the crossover from the twentieth to the twenty-first century with poetry that is "socially conscious, outspoken, and roguishly funny,"according to Donna Seaman in Booklist. "Giovanni makes supple use of the irony inherent in the blues, writing tough, sly, and penetrating monologues that both hammer away at racism and praise the good things in life." Blues, published after a battle with lung cancer and her first volume of poetry in five years, "offers thoughts on her battle with illness, on nature, and on the everyday—all laced with doses of harsh reality, a mix of sociopolitical viewpoints, and personal memories of loss," wrote Denolynn Carroll of American Visions who quotes from "The Faith of a Mustard Seed (In the Power of a Poem)": "I like my generation for trying to hold these truths to be self-evident. I like us for using the weapons we had. I like us for holding on and even now we continue to share what we hope and know what we wish." In an interview with Publishers Weekly's Calvin Reid, Giovanni "described Blues as 'my environmental piece,' and there are impressions of the land around her home in Virginia, but this collection also salutes the late blues singer Alberta Hunter; it reveals her love of sports as well as her love of Betty Shabazz; jazz riffs mingle with memories of going to the ballpark with her father to see the Cincinnati Reds." Quilting includes, as the title already tells, "anecdotes, musings, and praise songs," according to Tara Betts of Black Issues Book Review. There is a prose poem honoring Rosa Parks, reflecting the honor recently bestowed on Giovanni when she was recognized with the first Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award in 2002. Mabe noted that "single motherhood, a bout with lung cancer, showers of literary awards and an academic career have enriched but not blunted her edge," in the volume, though, she adds wryly, "being radical today has sometimes meant being reduced to voting for Ralph Nader." But as Tara Betts pointed out, Giovanni continues to fight against racism with her words wherever it crops up, as "revealed in 'The Self-Evident Poem': 'We just can't keep bomb / -ing the same people over and over again because we don't want / to admit the craziness is home grown.'" In an interview at the time of Quilt's publication, Samiya Bashir of Black Issues Book Review felt Giovanni has maintained a "broad fan base, perhaps because she has always put love at the forefront of her life and work," a love that sometimes sparks protective rage, which still comes out in her writing.

In 2003, Giovanni published The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, an audio compilation. Spanning her poetry from 1968 to the present and ranging in content from "from racism and Rosa Parks and Emmett Till to love and motherhood to boxes of yummy chicken," according to Sandy Bauers of Knight Ridder, the collection brings the poet's voice to life. "On the page, much of Giovanni's writing seems rhetorical," claimed Rochelle Ratner in Library Journal, but "hearing her read, dogma is replaced by passion." Bauers praised the production: "The poems are worth the price all by themselves. Giovanni reads with gobs of energy and enthusiasm. Hers is the poetry of plainspeak. None of the metaphorical mumbo jumbo that baffles so many of us. Her hopeful view of the future: 'Maybe one day the whole community will no longer be vested in who sleeps with whom. Maybe one day the Jewish community will be at rest, the Christian community will be content, the Moslem community will be at peace, and all the rest of us will get great meals on holy days and learn new songs and sing in harmony.'"

In 2005 Giovanni published Rosa, a children's book version of Rosa Park's famous refusal to give up her seat on the bus and other pivotal events of the Civil Rights movement. Reviewing the book for School Library Journal, Margaret Bush called it "striking" and "a handsome and thought-provoking introduction to these watershed acts of civil disobedience" A Publishers Weekly reviewer similarly praised the book as a "fresh take on a remarkable historic event and on Mrs. Parks's extraordinary integrity and resolve."

"Most writers spend too much time alone; it is a lonely profession," Giovanni once explained. "I'm not the only poet to point that out. Unless we make ourselves get out and see people, we miss a lot." Teaching, lecturing, sustaining close family ties, and remaining active in her community have allowed the poet to balance the loneliness of writing with a myriad of life experiences. "[Teaching] enriches my life, I mean it keeps reminding all of us that there are other concerns out there," Giovanni said. "It widens your world…. I have certain skills that I am able to impart and that I want to, and it keeps me involved in my community and in a community of writers who are not professional but who are interested. I think that's good."

"Writing is … what I do to justify the air I breathe," Giovanni wrote, explaining her choice of a vocation in CA. "I have been considered a writer who writes from rage and it confuses me. What else do writers write from? A poem has to say something. It has to make some sort of sense; be lyrical; to the point; and still able to be read by whatever reader is kind enough to pick up the book." Giovanni believes one of her most important qualities is to have experienced life and to have been able to translate those experiences into her work—"apply the lessons learned," as she termed it in CA. "Isn't that the purpose of people living and sharing? So that others will at least not make the same mistake, since we seldom are able to recreate the positive things in life." She continues to look back on her contributions to American poetry with pride. "I think that I have grown; I feel that my work has grown a lot," she once told an interviewer. "What I've always wanted to do is something different, and I think each book has made a change. I hope that the next book continues like that. Like all writers, I guess, I keep looking for the heart." She concluded, "human beings fascinate me. You just keep trying to dissect them poetically to see what's there." To Mabe, she added, "People say writers need experience. You don't need experience, you need empathy. It's so limiting to think that you have to go do something in order to write about it. It's important to raise our ability to empathize and listen. I don't need to be enslaved to write about it."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 64, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.

Contemporary Poets, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996, pp. 390-391.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 5: American Poets since World War II, 1980, Volume 41: Afro-American Poets since 1955, 1985, pp. 135-151.

Evans, Mari, editor, Black Women Writers, 1950–1980: A Critical Evaluation, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1984.

Fowler, Virginia, Nikki Giovanni, Twayne (Boston, MA), 1992.

Fowler, Virginia, editor, Conversations with Nikki Giovanni, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1992.

Georgoudaki, Ekaterini, and Domna Pastourmatzi, editors, Women: Creators of Culture. Hellenic Association of American Studies (Thessaloníki, Greece), 1997.

Giovanni, Nikki, Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-five Years of Being a Black Poet, Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1971.

Inge, Tonette Bond, editor, Southern Women Writers: The New Generation, University of Alabama Press (Tuscaloosa, AL), 1990.

Josephson, Judith P., Nikki Giovanni: Poet of the People, Enslow Publishers, 2003.

Lee, Don L., Dynamite Voices I: Black Poets of the 1960s, Broadside Press (Detroit, MI), 1971, pp. 68-73.

Lewis, Ida, introduction to My House, Morrow (New York, NY), 1972.

Mitchel, Felicia, editor, Her Words: Diverse Voices in Contemporary Appalachian Women's Poetry, University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville, TN), 2002.

Tate, Claudia, editor, Black Women Writers at Work, Crossroads Publishing, 1983.

Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1995, p. 388.

Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994, pp. 245-246.

Weixlmann, Joe, and Chester J. Fontenot, editors, Studies in Black American Literature, Volume II: Belief vs. Theory in Black American Literary Criticism, Penkevill Publishing, 1986.

PERIODICALS

American Visions, February-March, 1998, p. 30; October 1999, p. 34.

Black Issues Book Review, November-December 2002, pp. 1, 32; March-April 2003, p. 31.

Black World, July, 1974.

Booklist, December 1, 1993, p. 658; September 15, 1994, p. 122; December 15, 1995, p. 682; October 15, 1996, p. 426; January 1, 1997, p. 809; August p. 2029; March 15, 1999, p. 1276; June 1, p. 1807; February 15, 2001, p. 1102; December 15, 2002, p. 727; December 15, 2003, Donna Seaman, review of The Collected Poems of Nikki Giovanni: 1968–1998, p. 721.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1980, p. 31; June, 1996, p. 334.

Capital Times (Madison, WI), February 7, 1997, p. 13A.

Christian Science Monitor, March 20, 1996, p. 13.

Cimarron Review, April 1988, p. 94.

Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, OH), June 3, 1999, p. B01.

Ebony, February, 1972, pp. 48-50.

English Journal, April, 1973, p. 650.

Essence, May, 1999, p. 122.

Griot, spring, 1995, p. 18.

Harper's Bazaar, July, 1972, p. 50.

Horn Book, September-October, 1994, p. 575.

Jet, April 4, 1994, p. 29.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1971, p. 1051; January 1, 1974, p. 11; March 15, 1996, p. 447.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, February 16, 1994, p. 0216K0139; July 3, 1996, p. 703K4426; January 24, 2001, p. K3551; November 20, 2002, p. K1262; January 7, 2003, p. K5130.

Library Journal, January, 1996, p. 103; February 1, 1997, p. 84; May 1 1999, p. 84; November 1, 2002, p. 114; November 15, 2002, p. 76; February 1, 2003, p. 136.

New York Times, August 1, 1996, p. C9; May 14, 2000, p. A40.

New York Times Book Review, November 28, 1971, p. 8.

Publishers Weekly, May 23, 1980, p. 77; December 13, 1993, p. 54; December 18, 1995, pp. 51-52; October 21, 1996, p. 83; June 28, 1999, p. 46; July 12, 1999, p. 96; December 19, 1999, p. 51; March 11, 2002, p. 14; August 29, 2005, review of Rosa, p. 56.

School Library Journal, April, 1994, p. 119; October, 1994, p. 152; May, 1996, p. 103; January 1997, p. 100; July 1999, p. 107; November 17, 2003, review of The Collected Poems of Nikki Giovanni, p. 59; September, 2005, Margaret Bush, review of Rosa, p. 192.

Virginian Pilot, March 2, 1997 p. J2.

Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 1994, p. 298; October, 1996, pp. 229-230.

Washington Post Book Review, February 14, 1988, p. 3.

Washington Post Book World, February 13, 1994, p. 4.

ONLINE

African-American Literature Book Club, http://authors.aalbc.com/ (March 9, 2004), author profile.

BlackEngineer, http://www.blackengineer.com/ (January 14, 2003), discussion with Giovanni.

Nikki Giovanni Home Page, http://nikki-giovanni.com/ (March 9, 2004).

Paula Gordon Show, http://www.paulagordon.com/ (January 22, 2003), interview with Giovanni.

Poets, http://www.poets.org/ (March 9, 2004), "Nikki Giovanni."

Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of Color, http://voices.cla.umn.edu/ (March 9, 2004).

Writers Write, http://www.writerswrite.com/ (March 2, 2006), interview with Nikki Giovanni.

OTHER

Spirit to Spirit: The Poetry of Nikki Giovanni, a PBS special, 1987.

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