cover image The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni

The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni. William Morrow & Company, $22 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-688-14047-2

In the late 1960s, Giovanni emerged as one of the youngest and most controversial poets of the Black Arts Movement. She would go on to broaden her influence as an essayist, teacher, lecturer and activist. The poetry collected in this volume is arranged chronologically, gathering work from her first book, Black Feeling Black Talk (1968) to the present. The poems touch on themes and events of the last four decades of the nation's history. ``His headstone said/ FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST/ But death is a slave's freedom/ We seek the freedom of free men/ And the construction of a world/ Where Martin Luther King could have lived/ and preached non-violence'' is ``The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr'' in its entirety. Giovanni's work is also deeply subjective: ``I wrote a good omelet ...and ate a hot poem.../ after loving you.'' Springing from a strong commitment to African and African-American oral tradition, her voice is fierce, resilient, often celebratory and rooted in the vernacular of her community, whether she speaks as African American, woman, mother, writer or lover. (Jan.)