The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998

The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998

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by Nikki Giovanni, Virginia C. Fowler

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For the first time ever, the complete poetry collection spanning three decades from Nikki Giovanni, renowned poet and one of America's national treasures.

When her poems first emerged during the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s, Nikki Giovanni immediately took her place among the most celebrated, controversial, and influential poets of the era. Now, more than


For the first time ever, the complete poetry collection spanning three decades from Nikki Giovanni, renowned poet and one of America's national treasures.

When her poems first emerged during the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s, Nikki Giovanni immediately took her place among the most celebrated, controversial, and influential poets of the era. Now, more than thirty years later, Giovanni still stands as one of the most commanding, luminous voices to grace America's political and poetic landscape.

The first of its kind, this omnibus collection covers Nikki Giovanni's complete work of poetry from three decades, 1968–1998. The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni contains Giovanni's first seven volumes of poetry: Black Feeling Black Talk, Black Judgement, Re: Creation, My House, The Women and the Men, Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, and Those Who Ride the Night Winds. Arranged chronologically with a biographical timeline and introduction, a new afterword from the author, title and first-line indexes, and extensive notes to the poems, this collection is the testimony of a life's work -- from one of America's most beloved daughters and powerful poets.

Known for their iconic revolutionary phrases, Black Feeling Black Talk (1968), Black Judgement (1968), and Re: Creation (1970) are heralded as being among the most important volumes of contemporary poetry. My House (1972) marks a new dimension in tone and philosophy -- it signifies a new self-confidence and maturity as Giovanni artfully connects the private and the public, the personal and the political. In The Women and the Men (1975), Giovanni displays her compassion for thepeople, things, and places she has encountered -- she reveres the ordinary and is in search of the extraordinary. Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day (1978) is one of the most poignant and introspective. These poems chronicle the drastic change that took place during the 1970s -- in both the consciousness of the nation and in the soul of the poet -- when the dreams of the Civil Rights era seemed to have evaporated. Those Who Ride the Night Winds (1983) is devoted to "the day trippers and midnight cowboys," the ones who have devoted their lives to pushing the limits of the human condition and shattering the constraints of the status quo.

Each volume reflects the changes Giovanni has endured as a Black woman, lover, mother, teacher, and poet. A timeless classic, The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni is the evocation of a nation's past and present -- intensely personal and fiercely political -- from one of our most compassionate, vibrant observers.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With the initially self-published Black Feeling Black Talk (1968) and the same year's Black Judgment, the then 25-year-old Giovanni helped take the Black Arts Movement to national prominence, including TV appearances, a top-selling spoken-word LP, and nine books (counting interviews and anthologies) in the next six years. Giovanni's fiery yet personal early voice struck many listeners as the authentic sound of black militancy: "This is a crazy country," one poem explained, "But we can't be Black/ And not be crazy"; "White degrees do not qualify negroes to run/ The Black Revolution." The '70s saw Giovanni move toward more personal or private concerns: "touching was and still is and will always be the true/ revolution," she concluded in 1972, suggesting a few years later "We gulp when we realize/ There are few choices in life/ That are clear." This volume compiles not all Giovanni's poems but those of her first seven volumes, from Black Feeling to Those Who Ride the Night Winds (1983), which introduced her later "lineless" style ("This is not a poem... this is hot chocolate at the beginning of spring"). Her outspoken advocacy, her consciousness of roots in oral traditions, and her charismatic delivery place her among the forebearers of present-day slam and spoken-word scenes. Virginia C. Fowler provides an ample and diligent introduction, chronology and notes to individual works. Giovanni's planned reading tour for 2003-2004 includes the Javits Center in Manhattan and convention centers in D.C., Philadelphia and Miami-one sign of her unusually large fan base. (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This collection expands on a "selected works" released in 1997 by one of America's best-selling poets. Giovanni stared to self-publish poetry in 1968, beginning with Black Feeling Black Talk and an anthology of poetry by black women. She promoted her books with book parties, readings, and arts festivals to an enthusiastic audience and was soon affiliated with Dudley Randall's Broadside Press and then Morrow. While enrolled in Columbia University's M.F.A. program, she moved to the center of the Black Arts Movement, using the media, particularly black journals like Ebony and Negro Digest and the popular television program Soul!, to advance her career, which also included teaching. Her poems embody the spirit of that time, melding radical black politics, antiwar protest, and feminism: "it's father cooking breakfast/ and me getting fat as a hog/ or having no food/ at all and father proving/ his incompetence/ again/ i wish i knew how it would feel/ to be free." Giovanni's work ranges from war chants to love songs and often claims to be not quite poetry: "if this seems/ like somewhat of a tentative poem it's probably/ because I just realized that/i'm bored with categories." Her strongest work began to appear in the early 1970s, with the more reflective poems of "My House." Virginia C. Fowler's preface from the earlier selected work is reprinted here, along with a chronology and explanatory notes. This work includes the six volumes of poetry published through 1983, plus uncollected work since then; her last three volumes of poetry are not represented. Not essential, then, for libraries that have many or all of Giovanni's poetry but a good introduction for libraries not strong in her work.-Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine LLP Lib., New York Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
“One of the finest poets of our time. . . Her work still resonates.”
“Wise and mischievous, Giovanni is a must-read at every stage if her happily, still growing oeuvre.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.49(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni

On Hearing
"The Girl with
the Flaxen Hair"

He has a girl who has flaxen hair
My woman has hair of gray
I have a woman who wakes up at dawn
His girl can sleep through the day

His girl has hands soothed with perfumes sweet
She has lips soft and pink
My woman's lips burn in midday sun
My woman's hands—black like ink

He can make music to please his girl
Night comes I'm tired and beat
He can make notes, make her heart beat fast
Night comes I want off my feet

Maybe if I don't pick cotton so fast
Maybe I'd sing pretty too
Sing to my woman with hair of gray
Croon softly, Baby it's you

The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni
. Copyright © by Nikki Giovanni. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Nikki Giovanni, poet, activist, mother, and professor, is a seven-time NAACP Image Award winner and the first recipient of the Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award, and holds the Langston Hughes Medal for Outstanding Poetry, among many other honors. The author of twenty-eight books and a Grammy nominee for The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, she is the University Distinguished Professor of English at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.

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