cover image Acolytes


Nikki Giovanni, . . Morrow, $16.95 (131pp) ISBN 978-0-06-123131-5

The extraordinarily popular Giovanni got that way as a black militant during the 1970s, known for her inspirational, fiery live and recorded performances. This first volume since her 2003 Collected Poems loses the fire but keeps the inspiration: "Poetry says No to destruction and Yes to possibility," Giovanni declares. Her mix of lineated and prose poetry says yes over and over—to the glories of children and grandmothers, to "the men with hopes and dreams and talents," as well as to the memory of the African-American cultural heroes who died in the last few years. Many pages are, in effect, orations: "We will miss June Jordan. For her courage, her insight, her love of us all. We will miss this poet." Some of the strongest and most detailed works are short, not especially lyrical, pieces in prose. One remembers meeting Gwendolyn Brooks; another shows a grandmother's strong support for Virginia Tech Hokies football. Giovanni's most serious verse and prose link her own struggles—as a black woman, as a latter-day icon, as a cancer survivor, as a teacher—to the larger patterns of black American history, of striving toward freedom always: "I choose always as best I can to keep truth and compassion in my life." (Feb.)