#9

I had several early exposures to live readings at my local library while becoming familiar with poetry as a study in high school. These included legendary critic Harold Bloom, Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, and the force that is Nikki Giovanni. You may not be familiar with her if you have only had a casual acquaintance with the genre. She embodies issues such as the African-American experience and gender conflict. But more than that, taps into the social heartbeat of America and does not hold back when it comes to emotional expression.

Hearing the artist read their own work often offers a new appreciation for the content. You will never get closer to understanding the soul behind the words then at a live reading. She was kind enough to sign my book at the time I saw her in my teens, and I cherished that volume. When the opportunity arose to see her read at my collegiate alma mater 10+ years later, I jumped at the opportunity. She hadn’t lost a step in that time and was the sparkplug I remembered. She was again kind enough to double sign the same book from years earlier. I briefly reminisced with her about the previous reading and she remembered the little library and smiled in a way that made me glow inside.

Giovanni is capable of love and understanding, as well as fire and brimstone. It all comes through in her writing, coated with eloquence and often heart-wrenching insight.

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A Poem on the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy

Trees are never felled . . . in summer . . . Not when the fruit . . .
is yet to be borne . . . Never before the promise . . . is fulfilled . . .
Not when their cooling shade . . . has yet to comfort . . .

Yet there are those . . . unheeding of nature . . . indifferent to
ecology . . . ignorant of need . . . who . . . with ax and sharpened
saw . . . would . . . in boots . . . step forth damaging . . .

Not the tree . . . for it falls . . . But those who would . . . in
summer’s heat . . . or winter’s cold . . . contemplate . . . the
beauty . . .

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