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Nikki Giovanni – Celebrity Guest Author Interview

Title: Love Poems

Genre: Poetry

Synopsis: In a career that has spanned more than a quarter century, Nikki Giovanni has earned the reputation as one of America’s most celebrated and controversial writers. Now, she presents a stunning collection of love poems that includes more than twenty new works.

From the revolutionary “Seduction” to the tender new poem, “Just a Simple Declaration of Love,” from the whimsical “I Wrote a Good Omelet” to the elegiac “All Eyez on U,” written for Tupac Shakur, these poems embody the fearless passion and spirited wit for which Nikki Giovanni is beloved and revered.

Romantic, bold, and erotic, Love Poems expresses notions of love in ways that are delightfully unexpected. Articulating in sensuous verse what we know only instinctively, Nikki Giovanni once again confirms her place as one of our nations’s most distinguished poets and powerful truth-tellers.

Celebrity Author: Nikki Giovanni

I feel honored and privileged to present to you today, our Celebrity Guest Author, Nikki Giovanni.  I invited her to my Blog during Black History Month to answer a few questions about her writing and one of her books.  Nikki Giovanni is currently a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.

CH: Thank you for joining us and welcome! Out of thirty plus books of poetry and prose, do you have a favorite?

NG: Books are like puppies and children:  you love each one for different reasons.  I don’t actually have a favorite because, if I were honest, I’m always more excited about what is coming.

CH: The book, Love Poems, is dedicated to Tupac Shakur, the poem, All Eyez on U, is about him and you have a tattoo. What is the connection to Tupac?

NG: Tupac was a great man—a great poet, a humanitarian, a committed fighter for freedom.  His words spoke truth and conviction.  We all were incredibly sad when he was assassinated.  I tried to think of something to do to show his mother that we cared.  I got the tattoo: Thug Life.  The guy who crafted my tattoo said, “You don’t look like a Thug.”  And I replied, “OH YES.  I’M A THUG.”  Tupac was an artist, a dreamer.  If Justin Bieber was talented, he would have been shot by now.  If Bieber was African, he would have been departed.  If his name was Tupac, he would no longer be with us.  Why is that, I wonder?

CH: As part of both the Black Power Movement and the Black Arts Movement, your writings were always controversial and you’ve been known for “telling the truth as you see it.”  Throughout the years you seemed very adamant about getting your point across to the people. Do you think you have accomplished all that you set out to do?

NG: Not to correct your question but I have not tried to tell the people anything.  I have shared my views with the people but I have not tried to lead or correct them, assuming they need correction.  I do not understand why any poet or writer would run for office; that’s a different sense of who you are.  I’m just a poet.  I am as truthful as I can be.  That makes me an artist.  I heed the people; I do not lead the people.

CH: Love Poems, was published February 14, 1997. Now seventeen years to the day, do you think your readers completely understood the variety of love presented in this book?

NG: Of course, they do.  Everyone understands that love comes in many different packages and is used in many different ways.  You cannot love beyond your years, nor can you fail to love beneath them.  Love Poems is a wonderful book because it shows, or tries to show, that loves comes in different ways at different times.  In other words, I think you get the love you need when you open your heart.

CH: The poem, Love Is, is one of my favorite poems. It stands the test of time…no matter how young or old you are. Today, we have a lot of rappers who are trying to get their point across.  Do you think, the youth of today’s society can analyze the depth of your poems?

NG: Golleee!!!!  I have been blessed that so many young writers and critics have taken a sharp look at my work.  The youngsters today are brave and very smart.  Have you really listened to their poems?  I’m so pleased they have put me in that mix.

CH: I love pecans, but I have never had pecan-fried chicken. In your poems, you often write about food and its comparison to life.  Is this your way to reach all of the people?

NG: Can you imagine the Black community not talking about food?  We always have. Think about the Rent parties that brought us together: it was who fried the best chicken; who made the best pig feet. Food is the binder of any community.  And a good one, too.  Pecan-fried chicken is good but don’t forget, no matter what you may have read, that butter, is the agent.  Not any oil—butter.  On a low heat.  You can splash a bit of brandy before you serve it.  Everyone will love you.

CH:  In the poem, Seduction, you discuss love and tell it like it is, but almost in erotica—Long before Zane. Was this type of poetry for you or your audience?

NG: Zane is a wonderful young lady, isn’t she?  I met her in Charlottesville at the Book Festival.  I love Seduction; it’s a fun poem.

CH: Your first publication, Black Feeling, Black Talk, was published in 1968 and your recent publication, Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid, was published in October (2013). How does it feel to have your writings speak to generations?

NG: I could not be more pleased that my work has lived, thrived, and joined the conversation of Black America with the world.

CH: Do you have a ritual for writing your poetry? 

NG: No.  Neither would it be fair to say that I don’t have a ritual.  I drink coffee, so I will brew coffee and sit at my computer, but mostly I have ideas that I jot down, then fiddle with to see if they will grow.  I said, “No” because I don’t think I should get up at 6:00am and write for three hours.  I am not, after all, a novelist.

CH: What do you think about electronic books taking over the publishing industry and so many of our brick and mortar book stores closing?

NG: I am a big fan of the electronic book. I hate to see the old bookstores close, but they have to reinvent themselves. I believe the First Edition bookstore will be the next thing. People will read electronically, then decide they want to own that book. The author will then be invited to the old bookstores to sign. I think books will always be with us, but they will fill a different need.

CH: How does it feel to have been bestowed with so many accolades, honors and awards throughout the years?

NG: I truly am humbled by the reception my work has received.  I am fortunate to value my sanity, so I enjoy the good wishes.  And go back to work.

CH: Do you have any advice for new writers and poets?

 NG: The only advice I can offer is to be yourself: not the self someone else wants you to be, but the self you are. Enjoy yourself and your life. But most of all travel and eat. That’s how we learn.

CH: Last, but not least, last month literary icon, Amiri Baraka made his transition. Do you have a comment on knowing him and his writings?

NG: I am so sorry to see the legendary poet pass on. His sister was a friend of mine. I am so glad, I wrote a poem for him a few years before his passing, Serious Poems, which was for Amiri and Kimako. I am a big fan of praising the living.

CH: Where can my audience find you?

NG: My website is

CH: Nikki Giovanni, thank you so much for sharing your experiences and your book with my audience, especially on the 17th anniversary of the publication of Love Poems.

NG: You are welcome, Cheryl.

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