Tag Archives: poetry

A Good Cry by Nikki Giovanni

Poet, activist, and educator, Nikki Giovanni’s fiery, humorous, and reflective voice has long inspired artists, educated readers, and informed our national consciousness. Her newest poetry collection, A Good Cry: What We Learn from Tears and Laughter (October 24), is deeply personal and has been described as her most intimate collection. With selections like Surveillance, she recalls the violence that permeated her early years. She pays tribute to her grandparents in Baby West, and examines the history of the objects we treasure in Heritage. A Good Cry observes and celebrates the depth of emotions that accompany the trials and triumphs we face in life.

Giovanni believes that it is important that we learn to cry and laugh. In a time when there are so many things to distract us from feeling anything right at our fingertips, we often lose the opportunity to learn from what we feel and move forward together.

“Americans don’t cry,” she explains. “Your mother will die and someone will say, ‘It will be all right.’ But it won’t be. Man or woman, black or white, you are sad and your heart got broken. You should be able to cry. We have to allow ourselves to face that pain and embrace it. Embrace the people whom we love and the people with whom we feel we can share. You get tired of people saying, ‘I’m really strong, so it doesn’t matter.’ All of our emotions matter.”

Writing about circumstances involving other people can be a tricky situation. In Surveillance, Giovanni’s mother expresses her wish for what goes on in their house to stay in their house. Finding the courage to write about that part of her life in such an open and honest way was not easy.

“I could not have written that line fifty years ago. Mommy was more interested in how she and our family were viewed. I frankly don’t care. I know I should do better, but I don’t care what people are thinking about me,” she says.

“It’s important to me that my grandmother would be proud of me if she came down from heaven,” she adds. “If mommy came down from heaven, she would say, ‘You’re exposing some of us, but it’s all right because I love you.’ It’s not important how people look at us,” she adds.

Ultimately, caring what people think about your work as a writer or artist can limit your impact. Of course, the longer you practice your art, the more chances your work has to show contradictions. For Giovanni, this is an indication of growth.

To her students, she often says, “If you’re going to be a writer or a painter, there is always going to be some contradiction in your work. If you’re always doing the same thing, you haven’t learned anything. You’re going to learn something, and you have to be willing to embrace that fact.”

A lot of meaningful work is done when you give yourself over to the joy of sharing and thinking with other people. Over the span of thirty years, Giovanni’s career has been a living testament to that idea. She wants to do good work in all of her roles, and sees that as her responsibility. The result is a unique collection that pays tribute to those who have held a special place in her life, and the reality of her own experiences—both good and bad.

“If you’re not writing, you don’t know something,” she states. “You need to go study. I’m not a novelist or a playwright. I don’t write every day, but I do read every day. I take notes sometimes. I recently pulled over to the side of the road, put my blinkers on, and wrote a poem because I could see the rhythm of a wonderful jazz piece I was listening to. I don’t put pressure on myself, but I do consider what I have learned and how I will share it.”

A Good Cry: What We Learn from Tears and Laughter will be available for purchase on October 24. For more information on where to purchase Giovanni’s work, visit www.nikki-giovanni.com.

 

Written by Hayleigh Worgan

Books We Love: Sound the Deep Waters

Enjoy classic works of literature, poetry and art with editor Pamela Norris’s compilation book, Sound the Deep Waters: Women’s Romantic Poetry in the Victorian Age.

This book of poetry consists of four major sections, sorted by genre, and presented in a way that highlights both the comforting and relatable tones of the dynamic, romantic relationship: “Love’s Bitter Sweets,” “Moments of Delight,” “Dreams and Realities,” and “Last Songs.” Each sections provides readers with 12 poems and prints of artwork to absorb and enjoy.

fullsizerenderFeatured in the book are works from well-respected poets and authors: Emily Dickinson, Emily Jane Bronte, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Elliot, Christina Rossetti and many more.
Together these poets bring emotions of love and longing to the surface of each reader’s heart, aided by the classic and intricate illustrations of artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Evelyn de Morgan, and John Everett Millais. These reproductions of Pre-Raphaelite paintings will draw in readers, fully immersing them into the Romantic and Victorian eras of love; depictions of queens, stormy seas, fruitful gardens and angels drape across the pages, bringing the poems to life.

With over 52 color illustrations and 48 poems to explore, Sound the Deep Waters offers an array of classic, Romantic and Victorian poetry. Share this book with your sweetheart, a dear friend, or someone close to your heart to let them know you care. Whether it is for an anniversary, special occasion, birthday, or just because, this compilation of delicate art and literacy will certainly communicate that you care in a refreshingly classic, romantic way.

 

Written by Emily McCaul

Meet Dr. Almeder

(Photo Credit: Megan Cole)

“I have a love/hate relationship with poetry, but I keep writing it.” 

Dr. Melanie Almeder is a professor at Roanoke College who participated in a program called, “Art by Bus”, which is sponsored by the City of Roanoke Arts Commission, Ride Solutions, and the Greater Roanoke Transit Authority. Dr. Almeder rode public transportation regularly over the course of a month in order to create a unique work of literature. She published a collection of poems that she created during her participation in this program entitled In Transit.

What do you want people to take away from these pieces?
I guess the most important thing is that we live in this very diverse and dynamic landscape and that riding [the bus] can help us all participate more. It can also help us celebrate what’s beautiful about it and name what we would like to see grow. Poetry can do that and everyone can participate in that act. Poetry is not just an academically-owned process, but an opening to allow others to write.”

Do you think you have to understand poetry to appreciate it?
I think that there are different modes of understanding and I think it’s important to stretch our minds to understand it so that we can praise the world. Many run from poetry because its difficult, but the difficulty pays off. It’s important to give poetry a chance and understanding comes in different forms. We can understand things emotionally, structurally, or musically. Any of those modes are valuable and I think it’s worth trying to understand.”

What do you see in the future for you? Any other works we should expect to see soon?
I’m working on finishing a second book of poems and I’m also working on a website with one of my research students. The website is a tool kit for anyone that wants to run a writing group in a women’s halfway-house prison and rehab. Anyone in the nation who is working in a women’s prison will be able to download this tool kit, which contains exercises, ways to run the group, and how to print work. Lastly, I’m running a writing circle at the Trust House downtown to reach out to the homeless. I’m looking forward to publishing some of their writings soon.”

Any advice for other artists?
I would say read, read, read, don’t quit writing, and never stop learning. Let the world and people teach you. Stay open and pay attention.”

Written by Kathleen Duffy