"If I could come back as anything--I'd be a bird, first, but definitely the
command key is my second choice."

-- Nikki Giovanni --

1. biography

2. list of Nikki's works

3. back to Nikki's poetry

4. back to

Snally Gaster's African American Phat Library Experience

Not enough poems here? Email me your favorite works of the masters (no amateurs please).


nikki giovanni 1973

Nikki Giovanni was born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, jr June 7, 1943 in Knoxville, Tennessee, but raised in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. She attended the all-black Fisk University, where she became involved in both the Writers' Workshop and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committe. The connections between literature and politics would continue to absorb her attention for decades to come. In 1967, she became actively involved in the Black Arts movement, a loose coalition of African-American intellectuals who wrote politically and artistically radical poems aimed at raising awareness of black rights and promoting the struggle for racial equality. Radicalized by the assasination of Malcolm X and by the rise of the militant Black Panthers, her poetry in the 1960s and 1970s was colorful and combative; a recurrent theme of this era is the possible redundancy of poetry in the face of possible revolution. In her first three collections of poems, Black Feeling, Black Talk (1968), Black Judgement (1968), and Re: Creation (1970), her content was urgently revolutionary and suffused with deliberate interpretation of experience through a black consciousness.

Giovanni's experiences as a single mother then began to influence her poetry. Spin a Soft Black Song (1971), Ego-Tripping (1973), and Vacation Time (1980) were collections of poems for children. Loneliness, thwarted hopes, and the theme of family affection became increasingly important in her poetry during the 1970s. She returned to political concerns in Those Who Ride the Night Winds (1983), with dedications to black American heroes and heroines. From the late 1960s Giovanni was a popular reader of her own poetry, with performances issued on several recordings, and a respected speaker as well.

In Gemini (1971) she presented autobiographical reminiscences, and Sacred Cows . . . and Other Edibles (1988) was a collection of her essays. Nikki Giovanni is now (1998) a professor at Virginia Tech, where she teaches English. Recently, she underwent a successful operation for lung cancer.

List of Nikki Giovanni's works.

Major Works

Black Feeling, Black Talk (1968).

Black Judgement (1968).

Night Comes Softly (1970).

Poem of Angela Yvonne Davis (1970). Illustrated by Charles Bible.

Re: Creation (1970).

Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-Five Years of Being a Black Poet (1971).

Spin a Soft Black Song: Poems for Children (1971). Illustrated by Charles Bible.

In My House (1972).

Dialogue (1973). Foreword by Ida Lewis; Afterword by Orde Coombs. Conversations with James Baldwin.

My House, Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People (1973).

A Poetic Equation: Conversations between Nikki Giovanni and Margaret Walker

The Women Gather (1975). Broadside.

The Women and the Men (1975).

Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day (1978).

Black Feeling, Black Talk, Black Judgement (1979).

Vacation Time: Poems for Children (1980).

Those Who Ride the Night Winds (1983).

Sacred Cows and Other Edibles (1988).

Grand Mothers: Poems, Reminiscences, and Short Stories About the Keepers of

Our Traditions (1994).

Knoxville, Tennessee (1994). Illustrated by Larry Johnson.

Racism 101 (1994). Foreword by Virginia Fowler.

The Genie in the Jar (1996). Illustrated by Chris Raschka.

Shimmy Shimmy Like My Sister Kate: Looking at the Harlem Renaissance

Poems (1996). An anthology of Harlem Renaissance ( more or less ) poets with Nikki Giovanni's comments.

The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni (1996).

The Sun is So Quiet: Poems (1996). Illustrated by Ashley Bryan.

Love Poems (1997).


About Nikki Giovanni

Virginia C. Fowler, Nikki Giovanni. Twayne, 1992.


 the more recent photo is by Mari Evans