Nikki Giovanni: poetry of involvement and evolution


She is a poet who won't waste words.

Nikki Giovanni offers a one-word explanation on how her work has evolved in nearly 30 years of writing: "progressively." You can see just how far it has progressed when she reads from her work at 7:30 tonight at Roland Park Country School's Kelly gymnasium, 5204 Roland Ave.

Brought to the Baltimore campus through the Anne Healy Chair endowment, Ms. Giovanni's reading is free and open to the public.

The poet and lecturer, who teaches English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, came into the national limelight in the 1960s with verse that personified the burgeoning black power movement.

Today, her message remains one of urging people everywhere toward taking an active role in their communities. "People still need to be involved," says Ms. Giovanni in a telephone conversation from Blacksburg, Va.

And, in the classroom, Ms. Giovanni teaches a bit more than the day's English lesson. "I try to remind my students that there are many challenges in life they will have to face," says Ms. Giovanni who will read from many of her books.

Ms. Giovanni, 50, was born in Knoxville, Tenn., but her family moved to Cincinnati, when she was a baby. She has published 17 books and six recordings and garnered numerous awards, including an honorary doctorate of literature from the University of Maryland.

Ms. Giovanni was a wonderful choice for this year's lecture, says Gayle Latshaw, spokeswoman for RPCS.

"She is a nationally recognized poet," Ms. Latshaw says. "She speaks in many different voices. She speaks to children as well as adults. And this school has a very strong tradition in literature, poetry and the humanities."

For more information, call the school at 323-5500.

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