Posts filed under ‘Nikki Giovanni’


Nikki Giovanni


poetry is motion graceful
as a fawn
gentle as a teardrop
strong like the eye
finding peace in a crowded room

we poets tend to think
our words are golden
though emotion speaks too
loudly to be defined
by silence

sometimes after midnight or just before
the dawn
we sit typewriter in hand
pulling loneliness around us
forgetting our lovers or children
who are sleeping
ignoring the weary wariness
of our own logic
to compose a poem
no one understands it
it never says "love me" for poets are
beyond love
it never says "accept me" for poems seek not
acceptance but controversy
it only says "i am" and therefore
i concede that you are too

a poem is pure energy
horizontally contained
between the mind
of the poet and the ear of the reader
if it does not sing discard the ear
for poetry is song
if it does not delight discard
the heart for poetry is joy
if it does not inform then close
off the brain for it is dead
if it cannot heed the insistent message
that life is precious

which is all we poets
wrapped in our loneliness
are trying to say

Eugenio Montale, speaking on the topic 'Isolation and Communication' in 1952 said: "the most important voices will the voices of those artists who through their isolated voices give expression to an echo of the fateful isolation of each of us. In this sense, only the isolated speak, only the isolated communicate".

There are few better examplars of that paradox, I think, than Giovanni, whose best poems do not so much reach out to you as draw you in; who connects best to her readers when she speaks, as she does here, from the calm depths of her loneliness, from a strength of introspection that makes her work deeply personal, deeply heartfelt. There are many Giovanni poems that are just, well, clever; but there are a few where her natural knack for rhythm combines with an exactness of intimacy that is quite stunning.

What I love about this poem is its unflinching absoluteness. Poems are never wrong, Giovanni tells us, it is the heart or brain or ear that must be at fault if they do not work. But even as she utters these didactic pronouncements Giovanni has the grace to laugh at herself, and acknowledge the lonely, often delusional nature of her craft. This is a fine poem because it argues that poetry is both helpless and necessary – not so much an art form to be polished and made robust, but a mode of being alive.

Minstrels doesn't have this poem. But it does have other Giovanni poems (as well as relevant links): here, here and here. Go read.

February 19, 2006 at 6:39 pm 1 comment