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Nikki Giovanni


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Nikki Giovanni

  1. 1. Nikki Giovanni : a Woman of Strength and Courage Natalia Alhazov, PhD, USM March 12, 2009 Chisinau, ETRC
  2. 2. A most widely read American poet, author of over 30 books, Nikki Giovanni (Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr.) was born on June 7, 1943 in Knoxville, Tennessee and raised in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio <ul><li>Photo of 1973 </li></ul>
  3. 3. “ Princess of Black Poetry” (1970) and &quot;a Black American, a daughter, a mother, a professor of English&quot; <ul><li>celebrated and controversial author </li></ul><ul><li>civil rights and black power movements’ activist </li></ul><ul><li>distinguished professor and educator </li></ul><ul><li>stirring reciter of her poetry </li></ul><ul><li>public speaker and fiery orator </li></ul>
  4. 4. Distinctions, Honors, Awards <ul><li>25 honorary degrees </li></ul><ul><li>1 of 10 &quot;most admired black women&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Woman of the Year by 3 publications - Mademoiselle Magazine, The Ladies Home Journal, and Ebony Magazine </li></ul><ul><li>Nominated for the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame </li></ul><ul><li>Denominated an Outstanding Woman of Tennessee </li></ul><ul><li>Governor's Awards from Tennessee and Virginia </li></ul><ul><li>Langston Hughes Medal for poetry </li></ul><ul><li>Honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority </li></ul><ul><li>Life Membership and Scroll from The National Council of Negro Women. </li></ul><ul><li>Member of PEN, she was honored for her life and career by The History Makers </li></ul><ul><li>Was handed in the keys to more than 25 cities </li></ul><ul><li>A scientist who admires her work even named a new species of bat he discovered for her! </li></ul>
  5. 5. With controversial subject matter, deeply personal revelations, and outspoken tone, her poetry is a throwback to the fundamentals: a time when LOVE was used as a universal writing subject. <ul><li>creates revolutionary pieces inspired by African American activism and art </li></ul><ul><li>draws inspiration from black family culture </li></ul><ul><li>reflects racial issues </li></ul><ul><li>her womanhood - experience as a woman and a single mother </li></ul><ul><li>revolution and sexuality are strongly related – NG </li></ul>
  6. 6. Challenging problems of Afro-American poets: <ul><li>selection of themes and forms to express their thoughts and feelings; </li></ul><ul><li>cultivation of a voice expressive of their racial consciousness; </li></ul><ul><li>reception of the desired audience ; </li></ul><ul><li>support of a publishing and critical infrastructure; </li></ul><ul><li>the nature of their relationship with other literary traditions; </li></ul><ul><li>self-identification and </li></ul><ul><li>purpose of their literary efforts. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Life and Creation <ul><li>Studies at all-black Fisk University </li></ul><ul><li>Writers' Workshop and Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee </li></ul><ul><li>Activist of Black Arts movement (1967) </li></ul><ul><li>Radicalized by Malcolm X’s assassination and rise of militant Black Panthers </li></ul><ul><li>Black Feeling, Black Talk (1968), Black Judgment (1968), and Re: Creation (1970) - urgently revolutionary content </li></ul><ul><li>Experiences as a single mother influence her poetry </li></ul><ul><li>Spin a Soft Black Song (1971), Ego-Tripping (1973), and Vacation Time (1980) - poems for children </li></ul><ul><li>1970s - loneliness, thwarted hopes, theme of family affection </li></ul><ul><li>Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day (1978) - a poignant and introspective chronicle of drastic changes during 1970s, nationally and personally </li></ul>
  8. 8. Life and Creation (cont.) <ul><li>1980s - return to political concerns in Those Who Ride the Night Winds (1983) </li></ul><ul><li>Those Who Ride the Night Winds (1983) about &quot;the day trippers and midnight cowboys&quot; pushing the limits of the human condition </li></ul><ul><li>Popular reader of her own poetry and respected speaker </li></ul><ul><li>Gemini (1971) - autobiographical reminiscences </li></ul><ul><li>The Women and the Men (1975) - compassion for the people, things, and places encountered </li></ul><ul><li>Sacred Cows . . . and Other Edibles (1988) - collection of essays </li></ul><ul><li>Successful operation for lung cancer (1995) </li></ul><ul><li>A Woman of Strength and Courage - title applied to cancer fighters one of which NG is. At 52, 13 years ago she was operated on for lung cancer of which her mother and sister had died. </li></ul><ul><li>the first Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award Winner (2002), </li></ul><ul><li>Since 1998 - a professor at Virginia Tech, teaches English and writing </li></ul>
  9. 10. 1. Woman <ul><li>she wanted to be a blade </li></ul><ul><li>of grass amid the fields </li></ul><ul><li>but he wouldn't agree </li></ul><ul><li>to be the dandelion </li></ul><ul><li>she wanted to be a robin singing </li></ul><ul><li>through the leaves </li></ul><ul><li>but he refused to be </li></ul><ul><li>her tree </li></ul><ul><li>she spun herself into a web </li></ul><ul><li>and looking for a place to rest </li></ul><ul><li>turned to him </li></ul><ul><li>but he stood straight </li></ul><ul><li>declining to be her corner </li></ul><ul><li>she tried to be a book </li></ul><ul><li>but he wouldn't read </li></ul><ul><li>she turned herself into a bulb </li></ul><ul><li>but he wouldn't let her grow </li></ul><ul><li>she decided to become </li></ul><ul><li>a woman </li></ul><ul><li>and though he still refused </li></ul><ul><li>to be a man </li></ul><ul><li>she decided </li></ul><ul><li>it was all right </li></ul>
  10. 11. 2. Nikki Rosa <ul><li>childhood remembrances are always a drag if you're Black you always remember things like living in Woodlawn with no inside toilet and if you become famous or something they never talk about how happy you were to have your mother all to yourself and how good the water felt when you got your bath from one of those big tubs that folk in chicago barbeque in and somehow when you talk about home it never gets across how much you understood their feelings as the whole family attended meetings about Hollydale and even though you remember your biographers never </li></ul><ul><li>understand your father's pain as he sells his stock and another dream goes And though your're poor it isn't poverty that concerns you and though they fought a lot it isn't your father's drinking that makes any difference but only that everybody is together and you and your sister have happy birthdays and very good Christmasses and I really hope no white person ever has cause to write about me because they never understand Black love is Black wealth and they'll probably talk about my hard childhood and never understand that all the while I was quite happy </li></ul>
  11. 12. 3. For Saundra <ul><li>i wanted to write a poem that rhymes but revolution doesn't lend itself to be-bopping </li></ul><ul><li>then my neighbor who thinks i hate asked – do you ever write tree poems – i like trees so i thought i'll write a beautiful green tree poem peeked from my window to check the image </li></ul><ul><li>noticed that the school yard was covered with asphalt no green – no trees grow in manhattan </li></ul><ul><li>then, well, i thought the sky i'll do a big blue sky poem but all the clouds have winged low since no-Dick was elected </li></ul><ul><li>so i thought again and it occurred to me maybe i shouldn't write at all but clean my gun and check my kerosene supply </li></ul><ul><li>perhaps these are not poetic times </li></ul><ul><li>at all </li></ul>
  12. 13. 4. The True Import of Present Dialog, Black vs. Negro <ul><li>Nigger Can you kill Can you kill Can a nigger kill Can a nigger kill a honkie Can a nigger kill the Man Can you kill nigger Huh? nigger can you kill Do you know how to draw blood Can you poison Can you stab-a-Jew Can you kill huh? nigger Can you kill Can you run a protestant down with your ‘68 El Dorado (that’s all they’re good for anyway) Can you kill Can you piss on a blond head Can you cut it off Can you kill A nigger can die We ain’t got to prove we can die We got to prove we can kill They sent us to kill </li></ul><ul><li>Japan and Africa We policed europe Can you kill Can you kill a white man Can you kill the nigger in you Can you make your nigger mind die Can you kill your nigger mind And free your black hands to strangle Can you kill Can a nigger kill Can you shoot straight and Fire for good measure Can you splatter their brains in the street Can you kill them Can you lure them to bed to kill them We kill in Viet Nam for them We kill for UN & NATO & SEATO & US And everywhere for all alphabet but BLACK Can we learn to kill WHITE for BLACK Learn to kill niggers Learn to be Black men </li></ul>
  13. 14. 5. A Very Simple Wish <ul><li>i want to write an image </li></ul><ul><li>like a log-cabin quilt pattern </li></ul><ul><li>and stretch it across all the lonely </li></ul><ul><li>people who just don't fit in </li></ul><ul><li>we might make a world </li></ul><ul><li>if i do that </li></ul><ul><li>i want to boil a stew </li></ul><ul><li>with all the leftover folk </li></ul><ul><li>whose bodies are full </li></ul><ul><li>of empty lives </li></ul><ul><li>we might feed a world </li></ul><ul><li>if i do that </li></ul><ul><li>twice in our lives </li></ul><ul><li>we need direction </li></ul><ul><li>when we are young and innocent </li></ul><ul><li>when we are old and cynical </li></ul><ul><li>but since the old refused </li></ul><ul><li>to discipline us </li></ul><ul><li>we now refuse </li></ul><ul><li>to discipline them </li></ul><ul><li>which is a contemptuous way </li></ul><ul><li>for us to respond </li></ul><ul><li>to each other </li></ul><ul><li>i'm always surprised </li></ul><ul><li>that it's easier to stick </li></ul><ul><li>a gun in someone's face </li></ul><ul><li>or a knife in someone's back </li></ul><ul><li>want to playthan to touch skin to skin </li></ul><ul><li>anyone whom we like </li></ul><ul><li>i should imagine if nature holds true </li></ul><ul><li>one day we will lose our hands </li></ul><ul><li>since we do no work nor make </li></ul><ul><li>any love </li></ul><ul><li>if nature is true </li></ul><ul><li>we shall all lose our eyes </li></ul><ul><li>since we cannot even now distinguish </li></ul><ul><li>the good from the evil </li></ul><ul><li>i should imagine we shall lose our souls </li></ul><ul><li>since we have so blatantly put them up </li></ul><ul><li>for sale and glutted the marketplace </li></ul><ul><li>thereby depressing the price </li></ul><ul><li>i wonder why we don't love </li></ul><ul><li>not some people way on </li></ul><ul><li>the other side of the world with strange </li></ul><ul><li>customs and habits </li></ul><ul><li>not some folk from whom we were sold </li></ul><ul><li>hundreds of years ago </li></ul><ul><li>but people who look like us </li></ul><ul><li>who think like us </li></ul><ul><li>who want to love us </li></ul><ul><li>why don't we love them </li></ul><ul><li>i want to make a quilt </li></ul><ul><li>of all the patches and find </li></ul><ul><li>one long strong pole </li></ul><ul><li>to lift it up </li></ul><ul><li>i've a mind to build </li></ul><ul><li>a whole new world </li></ul>
  14. 15. 6. Revolutionary Dreams <ul><li>i used to dream militant </li></ul><ul><li>dreams of taking </li></ul><ul><li>over america to show </li></ul><ul><li>these white folks how it should be done </li></ul><ul><li>i used to dream radical dreams </li></ul><ul><li>of blowing everyone away </li></ul><ul><li>with my perceptive powers </li></ul><ul><li>of correct analysis </li></ul><ul><li>i even used to think i'd be the one </li></ul><ul><li>to stop the riot and negotiate the peace </li></ul><ul><li>then i awoke and dug </li></ul><ul><li>that if i dreamed natural </li></ul><ul><li>dreams of being a natural </li></ul><ul><li>woman doing what a woman </li></ul><ul><li>does when she's natural </li></ul><ul><li>i would have a revolution </li></ul>
  15. 16. 7. A Poem Of Friendship <ul><li>We are not lovers </li></ul><ul><li>because of the love </li></ul><ul><li>we make </li></ul><ul><li>but the love </li></ul><ul><li>we have </li></ul><ul><li>We are not friends </li></ul><ul><li>because of the laughs </li></ul><ul><li>we spend </li></ul><ul><li>but the tears </li></ul><ul><li>we save </li></ul><ul><li>I don't want to be near you </li></ul><ul><li>for the thoughts we share </li></ul><ul><li>but the words we never have </li></ul><ul><li>to speak </li></ul><ul><li>I will never miss you </li></ul><ul><li>because of what we do </li></ul><ul><li>but what we are </li></ul><ul><li>together </li></ul>
  16. 17. 8. I'm Not Lonely <ul><li>I'm not lonely </li></ul><ul><li>sleeping all alone </li></ul><ul><li>you think i'm scared </li></ul><ul><li>but i'm a big girl </li></ul><ul><li>i don't cry </li></ul><ul><li>or anything </li></ul><ul><li>i have a great </li></ul><ul><li>big bed </li></ul><ul><li>to roll around </li></ul><ul><li>in and lots of space </li></ul><ul><li>and i don't dream </li></ul><ul><li>bad dreams </li></ul><ul><li>like i used </li></ul><ul><li>to have that you </li></ul><ul><li>were leaving me </li></ul><ul><li>anymore </li></ul><ul><li>now that you're gone </li></ul><ul><li>i don't dream </li></ul><ul><li>and no matter </li></ul><ul><li>what you think </li></ul><ul><li>i'm not lonely </li></ul><ul><li>sleeping </li></ul><ul><li>all alone </li></ul>
  17. 18. 9. Transcript of Nikki Giovanni's Convocation address ( Delivered April 17, 2007) <ul><li>We are Virginia Tech. </li></ul><ul><li>We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning. </li></ul><ul><li>We are Virginia Tech. </li></ul><ul><li>We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again. </li></ul><ul><li>We are Virginia Tech. </li></ul><ul><li>We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by the rogue army, neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory, neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water, neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy. </li></ul><ul><li>We are Virginia Tech. </li></ul><ul><li>The Hokie Nation embraces our own and reaches out with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid. We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness. </li></ul><ul><li>We are the Hokies. We will prevail. We will prevail. We will prevail. </li></ul><ul><li>We are Virginia Tech. </li></ul>
  18. 19. The Virginia Tech massacre: <ul><li>the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in United States history, on or off a school campus </li></ul><ul><li>a school shooting of 2 separate attacks 2 hours apart on April 16, 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>took place on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg , Virginia , United States </li></ul><ul><li>perpetrator Seung-Hui Cho , killed 32 people and wounded many others before committing suicide </li></ul><ul><li>Cho, a senior English major in Prof. Giovanni’s class at Virginia Tech, had been diagnosed with and was treated for a severe anxiety disorder </li></ul>
  19. 21. 10. Yes We Can, Yes We Can, Yes We Can! Roll Call: A Song of Celebration <ul><li>I'm Barack Obama </li></ul><ul><li>And I'm here to say: </li></ul><ul><li>I'm President </li></ul><ul><li>Of the USA </li></ul><ul><li>I'll walk the streets </li></ul><ul><li>And knock on doors </li></ul><ul><li>Share with the folks: Not my dreams but yours </li></ul><ul><li>I'll talk with the people I'll listen and learn I'll make the butter Then clean the churn </li></ul><ul><li>My wife is pretty My children are sweet </li></ul><ul><li>We need one puppy To be complete </li></ul><ul><li>But here I am quite ready To take that President vow </li></ul><ul><li>The time is now For us to stand Because we all know Yes We Can Yes We Can Yes We Can </li></ul>
  20. 22. “ Bicycles are trust and balance…and that’s what love is,” said Giovanni of her latest book that includes 65 poems to match Giovanni’s 65 years. Internationally known author Nikki Giovanni offers five tips on how to write a love poem.
  21. 23. Love Poem Tips <ul><li>“ 5-If I could give just one piece of advice about writing a love poem I would remind the writer that love is about the lover not the beloved. It’s about how you feel not how he responds. That should free you to set your heart on your sleeve; no one is going to knock it off. </li></ul><ul><li>“ 4-Everything about love and life is the simplicity of it. The most important thing to keep in mind is to be clear. The Dells sang Love Is So Simple and I think they are right. Nat ‘King ‘ Cole sang I Love You (for Sentimental Reasons); clear as a bell. Cole Porter wrote You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To. Classic. All of them. Clear. You can feel the longing. </li></ul>
  22. 24. Love Poem Tips (cont.) <ul><li>“ 3-The most common writing mistake, period, is complication. The reader does not want to figure out what you mean. Neither does your beloved. Prince says I Want To Be Your Lover. Boom. You know where you stand. </li></ul><ul><li>“ 2-There must be an internal rhythm to a love poem; the desire must come out. The mistake a lot of people make is to over-think the poem. To reach out for images when just letting the longing of the heart come through would be sufficient. </li></ul><ul><li>“ 1-If someone writes you a love poem you’d have to be an idiot to say it was not a good poem. That’s like someone saying ‘I love that dress on you’ and you saying ‘What? This ole thing?’ The proper answer is a sweet smile and a thank you. If you have feelings for that person you can always blush.” </li></ul>
  23. 25. <ul><li>Thank you! </li></ul>