Nikki Giovanni: An Iconoclast of Black Poetry
The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni
The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni has been grafted to my hands for the last 3 weeks. This anthology is the chronological atlas of her published work from 1968 - 1998. But this goes beyond the simplicity of a gathered collection of publications. Each work is tagged with a biographical timeline; introductions; new after-words from Giovanni; along with title and first line indexes, and illuminating notes about the poems. The effort to put together a first rate book is evident from page one. The liner notes refer to this book as the testimony of Giovanni life's work. I concur with this assessment and commend the results.
For those of you who are Nikki Giovanni fans, this book is more than just complementary. It provides depth through personal insights that tend to edify her work. Her books of poems: Black Feeling Black Talk (1968), Black Judgment (1968), Re: Creation (1970), My House (1972), The Women and the Men (1975), Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day (1978), and Those Who Ride Night Winds (1983) are here in completion. She has also included a section called Occasional Poems which are primarily contemporary odes dedicated to significant persons/people whom have moved her to pay homage to them in words.
This collection could be a chronological study of the transition of Giovanni's poetry. Her iconic debut was the self-published revolutionary scripture Black Feeling Black Talk. It is a contemporary collection that has established itself as an indisputable centerpiece of modern poetry. This book is a resounding voice for the 1960's Black empowerment and pain. It is an ardent torch for socio-political change. Giovanni's work did not just comment on society's ills, she verbally demonstrated against it.
This acridity of her writing changed at the break of the 70’s. This is probably not so coincidental with the birth of her son. Giovanni evolved from writing what was outside her window, to what was in her soul. Her book aptly titled My House initiates a trek of introspection that has continued to cultivate itself over time. Her poetry grows to entwine her with the world that she has become a vital part. By the time her most recent works are written the evolution is evident and pronounce. Giovanni has taught, but more importantly she has learned. She fills art not only with her imagination, but her readers also. It could be that she hopes to initiate change one mind at a time.
The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni is not flawless in its attempt to give
readers a definitive presentation of this artist. There have been other
collections from her as recent as The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni:
1968-1995, which was published in 1996. There was also The Nikki Giovanni Poetry
Collection audio disk that she released back in December 2002. Multiple volumes
of poetry collections always turn me off. This book however, is by far the most
complete chronological presentation of her work. The annotation of her work is
also very nice. I would prefer not to see a continued duplication of the same
content, even if it is the venerated Nikki Giovanni.