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Nikki Giovanni Shares Creative Inspiration

Acclaimed poet and essayist Nikki Giovanni gave a wide-ranging, moving, insightful, and often uproarious talk this fall entitled “Grit, Grace, and Glow: Celebrating Black Excellence” at the Lang Performing Arts Center.

Giovanni read multiple poems and fielded questions from the audience, before signing copies of her books.

After listing Giovanni’s extensive accolades, which include an Emmy nomination, “Woman of the Year” honors from numerous publications and associations, and the keys to more than two-dozen North American cities, Provost Sarah Willie-LeBreton introduced her as a “poet and a pilot.”

“We’re unsure exactly where [Giovanni] will land with metaphor or rhyme, taking us on a bumpy ride, because at some point we must fly through the storm,” Willie-LeBreton said. “There is no map that takes us far around it. This is our fate, to move with a poet-pilot’s guidance, despite the lightning, heart beating with the thunder, knowing that after darkness eventually comes dawn and the poet-pilot has guided us to a smooth landing, a new place, a wonder with the chance to begin again.”

After discussing politics, religion, and Nashville’s history as “Music City,” Giovanni read her poem “Tennessean by Birth,” about her home state, which she left as a child when her family moved to Cincinnati. She also read her 1968 work “Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why)” before ending with a poem from her forthcoming book, Make Me Rain. Entitled “A Bench for Toni Morrison,” the poem is dedicated to her friend and fellow writer, who died before the two could collaborate on a book about benches commemorating slavery in America.

A Q&A session with Giovanni rounded out the event as she shared insights about her creative inspiration, fashion sense, and advice for future generations of activists.