Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Nikki Giovanni -- The Great Gateway Poet
Last night, Nikki Giovanni gave a reading at SIUE. Well, "a reading" might be the wrong word for it. Anytime Giovanni presents, she actually tells these captivating, far out stories and then mixes in a few poems. For decades now, Giovanni has been weaving these captivating and hilarious narratives for large audiences.
But everybody knows about the audacious Nikki Giovanni. What's less discussed is the fact that she is one of our greatest "gateway poets." Large numbers of people go into poetry after encountering Giovanni.
Gateway poets like Giovanni and Maya Angelou are crucial ambassadors for the field of poetry. They make presentations across the country at dozens of events each year. Every time they tell stories and read poems, they inspire groups of people to follow a similar path.
Giovanni's poem about growing up in Tennessee or her story about why she loves the idea of space travel and wants to visit Mars motivates a range of people to write poems about their hometowns or states and consider some of their more daring dreams.
Giovanni's reading / storytelling performance last night had folks laughing, shaking their heads, clapping their hands, and shouting affirmations, and contemplating what it might mean to enter the world of poetry or move into multiple other fields with Giovanni-like boldness. She's one of our greatest gateway poets.