Reading Matters

Nikki Giovanni to lecture at Queens

Nikki Giovanni
Nikki Giovanni The Poetry Foundation

“Writing is what I do to justify the air I breathe,” Nikki Giovanni once wrote of her choice of a vocation.

One of the country’s best-known African American poets, she has also said: “My dream was not to publish or to even be a writer: my dream was to discover what no one else had thought of. I guess that’s why I’m a poet. We put things together in a way no one else thinks of.”

Giovanni, who will give a free public lecture at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Dana Auditorium on the Queens University of Charlotte campus, also wrote, in part, after the death of Robert Kennedy:

“Trees are never summer...Not when the fruit...

is yet to be borne... Never before the fulfilled...

Not when their cooling shade has yet to comfort...”

Born in Knoxville, Tenn., in 1943, the younger of two daughters, Giovanni moved with her family as a young child to Cincinnati. She returned to Tennessee as a college student, enrolling in Fisk University in Nashville. She went on to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and at Columbia University in New York.

Giovanni has written more than two dozen books, including volumes of poetry, illustrated children’s books and three collections of essays. She was named one of Oprah Winfrey’s 25 Living Legends and has been named Woman of the Year by Ebony, Ladies Home Jouronal and Mademoiselle. Her most recent collection, “Bicycles: Love Poems,” has een called one of her most powerful offerings to date by Essence. She was a finalist for the National Book Award for “Gemini,” and has been awarded an unprecedented seven NAACP Image Awards.

“I have been considered a writer who writes from rage and it confuses me,” she once wrote. “What else do writers write from? A poem has to say something. It has to make some sort of sense; be lyrical; to the point; and still able to be read by whatever reader is kind enough to pick up the book.”