Nikki Giovanni, Author . Morrow $24.95 (496p) ISBN 978-0-06-054133-0

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.)

Reviewed on: 11/17/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
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