This event is part of the Sherman Alexie Loves series, a three-part series curated and hosted by Seattle’s favorite novelist, poet, playwright, and children's author, Sherman Alexie, and highlighting authors he loves and champions.
“I think I was lucky because I was always sniffling. Colds; allergies; something or another. Which meant I got to stay home from school a lot. Which meant I could read the books that I wanted to read.” – Nikki Giovanni
“I feel so sorry for the kids who only hear one kind of music. Where do your dreams come from?” – Nikki Giovanni
“I highly recommend old age; it’s fun.” – Nikki Giovanni
“If you don’t understand yourself, you don’t understand anybody else.” – Nikki Giovanni
“My dream was not to publish or to even be a writer: my dream was to discover something no one else had thought of. I guess that’s why I’m a poet. We put things together in ways no one else does.” Poet, activist, and educator Yolanda Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni has captured America’s heart with her fiery, funny, and insightful verse for over 30 years. Giovanni was an integral part of the Civil Rights era, re-establishing the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Fisk University in 1965 and was heavily involved in the Black Arts Movement of the early 1970’s, hailed by critics as the “Princess of Black Poetry.”
Giovanni is the author of over 30 children’s books and poetry collections and the winner of seven NAACP Image Awards among many other honors. Her book Gemini was nominated for a 1973 National Book Award, and The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Spoken Word in 2002. Music played a huge role in Giovanni’s childhood and in her work. Her early poetic recordings on wax, including Like a Ripple on a Pond and Truth Is on Its Way, made her a hip-hop icon and she appeared as a special guest for the Afro Punk Festival in 2016.
Giovanni returns as relevant as ever with a new a poetry collection, A Good Cry: What We Learn from Tears and Laughter, a veritable memoir in verse “recalling the violence that permeated her parents’ marriage and her early life, and how she came to live with the grandparents who she credits with saving her life.” Her new book also explores the good and bad of aging and pays tribute to Giovanni’s most cherished poets, thinkers, and students, including her good friend Maya Angelou.
Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on June 7, 1943, and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. After earning a B.A. from Fisk University in Nashville in 1967, she organized the Black Arts Festival in Cincinnati before entering graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. She is currently a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, where she has taught since 1987.