Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni

“I am enough of an existentialist to know that you have to write for the now, but you have to anticipate a life.”

Elizabeth Alexander
Photo: C.B. Claiborne, 1994

Entering the literary world at the height of the Black Arts Movement, Nikki Giovanni quickly became one of America’s most widely read poets. Truth Is On Its Way, a recording of her poems recited to gospel music, was one of the best-selling albums in the country in 1971. All but one of her twenty books are still in print with several having sold more than 100,000 copies. Named woman of the year by three magazines, including Ebony, and recipient of a host of honorary doctorates and awards, Nikki Giovanni has read from her work and lectured at colleges around the country. Her books include Black Feeling, Black Talk, Black Judgement (1968); My House (1972); Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People (1973); The Women and the Men (1975); Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day (1978); Those Who Ride the Night Winds (1983); Sacred Cows… and Other Edibles (1988), and Racism 101 (1994). Since the 1994 conference, Giovanni has gone on to publish the Emmy-award nominated The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection (2004) and Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid (2013). Currently, Giovanni is a University Distinguished Professor of English at Virginia Tech.

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Knoxville, Tennessee

I always like summer
best
you can eat fresh corn
from daddy’s garden
and okra
and greens
and cabbage
and lots of
barbecue
and buttermilk
and homemade ice-cream
at the church picnic
and listen to
gospel music
outside
at the church
homecoming
and go to the mountains with
your grandmother
and go barefooted
and be warm
all the time
not only when you go to bed
and sleep