Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Poems: Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni, whom I have spoken about in variously places previously as one of my favorite poets in childhood and adolescence, gave the rousing, consoling conclusion to the Virginia Tech convocation today. You can view that here. I realized as I watched the clips of Giovanni's speech that she has written quite a lot about the pain of loneliness, of making choices in the faces of various kinds of difficulties, of the constrained life. I wonder if Cho Seung-Hui ever read any of these poems, like "Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day," or "Choices"--in the best of all worlds, they might have helped him, lifted him, reached him. Poetry sometimes can have that effect. Below is Giovanni's poem "Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day," whose treacly title belies its simple profundity. I've added another one, a bit more witty, to show her range. The students, her colleagues, and everyone at Virginia Tech are lucky she's there.


Don't look now
I'm fading away
Into the gray of my mornings
Or the blues of every night

Is it that my nails
keep breaking
Or maybe the corn
on my second little piggy
Things keep popping out
on my face
of my life

It seems no matter how
I try I become more difficult
to hold
I am not an easy woman
to want

They have asked
the psychiatrists psychologists politicians and
social workers
What this decade will be
known for
There is no doubt it is

(to quote a philosopher)

i haven't done anything
meaningful in so long
it's almost meaningful
to do nothing

i suppose i could fall in love
or at least in line
since i'm so discontented
but that takes effort
and i don't want to exert anything
neither my energy nor my emotions

i've always prided myself
on being a child of the sixties
and we are all finished
so that makes being

Copyright © 1978, Nikki Giovanni.

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