February 26, 2009

Nikki Giovanni is a Big Fan of Trees….and I’m a Big Fan of Her

First thing’s first: I’m not sure how I’ve gone thirty two years without hearing of the poet Nikki Giovanni. In fact after seeing her brilliant mind at work in a recent interview with Bill Moyers, I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never come across her writing before. This Grammy-nominated poet, activist and mother has been publishing work since the 60’s and her new book Bicycles: Love Poems, comes out in a week.

To get further acquainted with this great poet, second thing’s second: Take a half hour and watch her talk about everything from good wine and good sex to the relationship between Martin Luther King Jr, Huey Newton and Barack Obama and how she won’t eat ugly food. Seriously, this is required viewing. If you are too lazy to watch it yourself I’ve included one of the clip’s highlights, which features Giovanni reading the poem “Everything Good is Simple”:

Everything good is simple: a soft boiled egg…toast fresh from the oven with a pat of butter swimming in the center…steam off a cup of black coffee… John Coltrane bringing me ‘Violets for My Furs’

Most simple things are good: Lines on a yellow legal pad… dimples defining a smile…a square of gray cashmere that can be a scarf… Miles Davis ‘Kind of Blue’

Some things clear are complicated: believing in a religion…trying to be a good person…getting rid of folk who depress you…Horace Silver ‘Blowing the Blues Away’

Complicated things can be clear: Dvorak’s ‘New World’ Symphony… Alvin Ailey’s ‘Revelations’… Mae Jemison’s riding in space… Mingus ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’

All things good are good: poetry… patience… a ripe tomato on the vine… a bat in flight… the new moon…me in your arms… things like that

While we can expect more inspiring prose from Giovanni in the future, I also take pleasure in knowing I have a good 40 years worth of work to catch up on.