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Giovanni sends valentine through poems

By Sally Harris

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 20 - February 13, 1997

Renowned poet Nikki Giovanni is sending a valentine to the world.

Giovanni, professor of English at Virginia Tech, and William Morrow and Co. Inc. have issued Love Poems, a collection of Giovanni's poems packaged in a bright red jacket. The poems, written from 1968 until the present, are "like a gathering," Giovanni said. "I gathered some of the older poems that might have been overlooked because they were sitting next to some of the more revolutionary poems" and added them to those written in recent years.

After The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni was published, Giovanni decided it was time to do a volume of love poems because so many had been left out of the other selections. "From the revolutionary `Seduction' to the tender new poem, `Just a Simple Declaration of Love,' from the whimsical `I Wrote a Good Omelet' to the elegiac `All Eyez on U,' written for Tupac Shakur, these poems embody the fearless passion and spirited wit for which Nikki Giovanni is beloved and revered," the cover notes say. "Romantic, bold, and erotic, Love Poems expresses notions of love in ways that are delightfully unexpected."

The poems tell of love gone right ("You Came, Too") and love just plain gone ("You Were Gone"), love of family ("Mothers") and love of friends ("Telephone Poem") and all the many stages of romantic love. Some of Giovanni's own favorites include "And Yeah...This Is a Love Poem" for the men who showed up for the Million Man March and "All Eyez On U." "But I really love `What It Is,'" Giovanni said, quoting from a light-hearted poem that puts love in the context of the ordinary situations of life. "It catches people by surprise."

Giovanni is the author of 23 other books of poetry and essays and has been known nationally since the 1960s when her poetry became a voice for black people. She recently received the Langston Hughes Award, whose previous winners include James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, and Maya Angelou.

The hardcover Love Poems sells for $12, a price kept deliberately low because "a lot of people who read me are young people," Giovanni said, "and I hoped, especially with love poems, to bring it in at a low price so they could give it to their boyfriends and girlfriends."

"It's a Valentine from me to the world," Giovanni said. "If I had chocolate, we could eat it."