I was introduced to Nikki Giovanni through the poem, “Ego Tripping”
“I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended
except by my permission”
“I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels deliver uranium
the filings from my fingernails are
I was maybe a senior in high school when I found Giovanni through this poem at my local library. And I remember the embarrassed feeling I got after I read the poem. I thought…”who is this woman bragging on herself?” “who does she think she is to be referencing herself a Queen and being the mother to Hannibal and Noah?” I remember it felt great but it was also foreign. I almost didn’t want to be caught reading it.
What I realize now is that may have been my first time being introduced to an African American feminine narrative.
The poem wasn’t about doors or boats from Robert Frost.
The poem wasn’t about hope and feathers from Emily Dickinson.
It wasn’t the blues from Langston Hughes.
It wasn’t Walt Whitman or Anne Sexton or Paul Lawrence Dunbar…
or my beloved Maya Angelou and her Caged Bird…
Nikki Giovanni was the first time I read an African American woman refer to herself as beautiful and being directly connected to all things beautiful in the art world of poetry.
I remembering sitting on the floor in the middle of the aisle at the library and reading the poems in her book and imagining a Tennessee cloud looking like cotton candy… women being judged for the length of their Sunday school dresses… summer love… and even to this day when someone mentions her name… it makes me smile and remember meeting her in the library that afternoon.
When I walked across the Pettus Bridge in Selma for the 50th anniversary earlier this year, Rev. Al Sharpton said something in a sermon that struck a cord with me. He said, “We praise our dead and condemn the living.” It made me want to acknowledge everyone that has served as inspiration to me before they left this planet!
So today, I acknowledge Nikki Giovanni! I speak her name for inspiring me and making me feel so embarrassingly, wonderful and warm about myself one afternoon at the library 🙂 The audacity of learning from poetry!
“The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.” -Toni Morrison
As a young girl, my mother had to chose what utilities she would keep on and which ones she would let go to keep my sister, brother and I fed and clothed. Phone service NEVER made the “stay on” list and gas service was optional during summer months. Cable television was not discussed in my home because we only had two televisions and they were black and white. (yes, color televisions were available and no I won’t tell the year or my age). My escape was reading. The easiest series of books to find in sequential collections at thrift stores at the time were the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. And I read them all! Continue reading a Higher Re-Education Program (Writer’s Edition)
moon face full of stars.
little woman / soft voice with cursive connotations.
and universe hugging
woman of literature.
my love for her is beyond words.
adoring / fond / attached like a new lover.
even though she is associated with the black arts movement, she is one of those artists who have walked through hip hop with us. her words have survived the linguistic flips and inspire/challenge writers today. she joined blues music with her poetic styles of tanka and haiku. she is the key of b sharp.
she is award winning and legendary and highly sought after for lecturing on women’s rights and literary topics.
I am writing this as if everyone knows where she was born and who she was married to and how many books she has, etc. if you don’t know… look her up and land in love with poetry and prose. over. and over. again.
sonia sanchez, one of the reasons I have realized/actualized I must write.
The boat whistled its’ way through the waters and soon the screams of the women faded. The air was now filled with the constant yells of families sitting on roofs screaming for help. They approached Memorial Medical Center and Chris decided to seek refuge there. As he got closer, he could see through the lobby window hundreds of people camped inside. Every seat was occupied and people were sprawled out on the floor with blankets. Police were patrolling the doors. Chris knocked but the policemen just stood and shook their heads in the negative. Chris trudged through the water to the other side of the hospital and policemen were standing heavy guard at those doors too. He knew besides the sore bones and loose teeth, he had no serious injury and they were not going to let him in.
Chris double tied his bag of food and treaded through the water on his tippy toes. He began to reminisce on the summers growing up in New Orleans. His father worked as a mechanic in a neighborhood shop and in the summer Chris would help out by washing the cars once he was done. Afterwards, instead of joining his cousins down at the local swimming pool, he hung out with the neighborhood knuckle heads and smoked weed. Or they convinced one of the older drunks to buy them liquor. He was all of nine years old. With the water slapping up against his chest and occasionally splashing in his face, he wished he had taken those swimming lessons instead.
A few blocks from the hospital, Chris found himself pacing in the water side by side with a dog. The dog was a dark brown cocker spaniel probably looking for a dry place to rest his feet. From atop, the dog seemed to be relaxed. But he knew underneath he was probably paddling his legs wild as the devil! Chris remembered how easy it was to tread the dog paddle when he was younger so he picked his feet up to give it a try. He quickly dipped in the thick, murky waters and emerged panicked. He struggled to get his stance stable but soon regained his pace and continued down the street with the other stranded people.
A little ways down, Chris spotted the small boat and whistled to get their attention. They acknowledged him by waving. Other people began to whistle and try and make their way to the boat too so Chris picked up his pace. The eyes of the dog swimming nearby were showing signs of exhaustion. There was no telling how long the dog had been in the water. The dog let out a bark, then went under the water. Within seconds, his head reappeared and he began to bark in desperation. Chris was mindful to stay as far away from the dog as possible to avoid being bitten. The small boat reeved it’s engine as they waited for him. The dog’s bark now became aggressive as he continued to swim towards Chris. The men on the boat splashed water towards the dog to slow him down and distract his concentration on swimming.
“Come on man! Dat dog look mad or summin’!,” one of the men said.
Chris turned his head to witness the dog go under again. He started to run on his tip toes because he knew he would get sprayed with the dirty water when the dog came back up. He reached the boat and threw his bag of food aboard. He could feel the water spray on the back of his neck as the dog shook its’ head. The men reached down and pulled Chris on the boat.
“They wasn’t lettin’ nobody in down at the hospital huh?,” Gunner asked.
“Naw,” Chris simply replied.
The boat pulled away and the dog continued to swim behind it. His eyes were bulging as he barked pleas of help. There was nothing in sight for the dog to take refuge on. The dog’s shiny, brown coat disappeared under the water a third time, not to emerge again.
a snippet from the short story book, Mississippi Window Cracks.