Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Giovanni Scholars converge at Furious Flower

It's not every day that you get a chance to converse with a group of Nikki Giovanni Scholars, but that opportunity has presented itself recently at James Madison University. The Furious Flower Poetry Center, founded by Joanne Gabbin, is hosting The Living Truth: The Life and Work of Nikki Giovanni.

The institute is comprised of a diverse, inter-generational group of participants -- poets, secondary teachers, university and community college professors, graduate students. Some work at HBCUs, some at PWIs. Some are from California. Others are from New York and Virginia. One is from Saudi Arabia. Some are at the beginning of their careers, some have been teachers for more than two decades. They are united in their interest in learning more about one of our most iconic poets.

Nikki Giovanni signs a book

How do you get such an eclectic group in the room together? For one, Gabbin has devoted the last 25 years to building Furious Flower. She's been perfecting the art of assembling dozens, sometimes hundreds of people in the name of black poetry.

Second, in recent years,  Gabbing and assistant director Lauren Alleyne have put in considerable time and energy coordinating a number of poetry programs. They had done all kinds of outreach, and their past successes prepared them to host this current group of more than 50 people. So there's that.

But let's talk about the intellectual and artistic energy in the room each day. All these active thinkers offering perspectives on the experience of reading and teaching Giovanni's work and devising lesson plans related to her creative output. It's a rare and powerful occasion to witness a group of people from so many different places gather together for a week-long discussion of works by a black woman writer. 

Their excitement about exchanging ideas is invigorating and instructive.

A notebook on the Furious Flower Nikki Giovanni seminar
A Notebook on Nikki Giovanni

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