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Nikki Giovanni speaking at Emory 2008
Born June 7, 1943 (age 70)
Occupation writer, poet, activist
Nationality United States
Yolande Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni Jr. (born June 7, 1943) is an American writer, commentator, activist, and educator. She is currently a distinguished professor of English at Virginia Tech.
Life and work
Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, to Yolande Cornelia, Sr. and Jones “Gus” Giovanni. She grew up in Lincoln Heights, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, and in 1960 began her studies at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, her grandfather’s alma mater. She graduated in 1967 with honors, receiving a B.A. in history. Afterward she went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University.
In 1969 Giovanni began teaching at Livingston College of Rutgers University, and since 1987, she has taught writing and literature at Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor. She has received nineteen honorary doctorates and other awards, including “Woman of the Year” awards from three different magazines as well as the key to several different cities. She is a member of the Order of the Eastern Star (PHA), and an Honorary Member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
Giovanni ca. 1980
Giovanni taught the Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho in a poetry class. She described him as “mean” and “menacing”, when she approached the department chair to have Cho taken out of her class, and said she was willing to resign rather than continue teaching him. She stated that, upon hearing of the shooting, she immediately suspected that Cho might be the shooter. On April 16, 2007, at the Virginia Tech Convocation commemorating the April 16 Virginia Tech massacre, Giovanni closed the ceremony with a chant poem, intoning:
“ We know we did nothing to deserve it. But neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS. Neither do the invisible children walking the night awake to avoid being captured by a rogue army. Neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory. Neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water…We are Virginia Tech…We will prevail.
I absolutely positively love this woman she is my kind of writer I feel a lot of her work she is awesome man.
Def Poetry, also known as Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry or Def Poetry Jam, which was co-founded by Bruce George, Danny Simmons and Deborah Pointer, is an HBO television series produced by hip-hop music entrepreneur Russell Simmons. The series presents performances by established spoken word poets, as well as up-and-coming ones. Well-known actors and musicians will often surprise the audience by showing up to recite their own original poems. The show is hosted by Mos Def. Def Poetry is a spin-off of Def Comedy Jam. As he did on Def Comedy, Simmons appears at the end of every episode to thank the audience.
The series included historical legendary poets such as, The Last Poets, Nikki Giovanni, Amiri Baraka and Sonya Sanchez. It also featured poets, Saul Williams, Grammy Award Winning J. Ivy, Jessica Care-Moore and Lemon. Though technically not a poetry slam, Def Poetry has become heavily associated with the poetry slam movement, and utilizes many of poetry slam’s best known poets, including National Poetry Slam champions such as Beau Sia, Taylor Mali, Big Poppa E, Mayda del Valle, Mike Mcgee, Alix Olson and Rives, among others. Even poets who are critical of the poetry slam, such as John S. Hall, have acknowledged slam’s influence on the show. In a 2005 interview, Hall was quoted as saying,
“ It’s true that I was on Def Poetry even though I’ve never slammed. I’m probably the only person to be on there who hasn’t slammed. And I think most people on Def Poetry have won slams or done well in slams. And, all of them, except the special guest stars, the celebrities, are writing slam poems and performing slam poems on Def Poetry, so to me, Def Poetry is still extremely slam-informed, and I think it will probably always be. What they say about Def Poetry is that it wants to bring an urban feel. And to me, they don’t mean black or Latino, or non-white. What they really mean is, a rhythm of poetry that comes out of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, that came out of the slams. ”
In a 2005 interview, Bob Holman, who founded the Nuyorican Poets Cafe’s poetry slam and appeared on Season 4 of the show, applauded Def Poetry, noting,
“ I’m real happy poetry is on television. My hat is off to Russell Simmons, who has found a way to get poems on HBO in a way that feeds his own business. It gives him the back credentials for his hip-hop label, and at the same time he’s magnanimous towards the art of poetry, giving us a place like that. It’s a great, great moment, just as Def Poetry Jam on Broadway was a great moment, too. Not since Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf has a poem like that been on the stage. ”
However, Marc Smith, the founder of the Poetry Slam movement, is more critical of the program. Smith decries the intense commercialization of the poetry slam, and refers to Def Poetry as “an exploitive entertainment [program that] diminished the value and aesthetic of performance poetry.”
In November 2002, a live stage production, Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam opened on Broadway. The show featured poets Beau Sia, Suheir Hammad, Staceyann Chin, Lemon, Mayda del Valle, Georgia Me, Black Ice, Poetri and Steve Coleman. The show ran on Broadway until May 2003, and won a 2003 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event. The show subsequently toured both nationally and internationally.
Def Poetry premiered on HBO in 2002 and the latest season to air (Season 6) premiered in February 2007. As of summer 2008, there has been no word about the possibility of a Season 7. Starting in 2008, producers of Def Poetry (including Simmons, Stan Lathan, and Kamilah Forbes) developed and broadcast the HBO poetry show Brave New Voices, which is stylistically similar to Def Poetry, with teenage poets competing and backstage scenes.
This article is about the art form. For other uses, see Poetry (disambiguation).
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Short story Novella
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Mythopoeia Romance Satire
Performance (play) Book
History and lists
Outline of literature
Glossary of terms
Literary / Poetry awards
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“Poem”, “Poems”, and “Poetic” redirect here. For other uses, see Poem (disambiguation), Poems (disambiguation), and Poetic (disambiguation).
Poetry (from the Greek poiesis — ποίησις — with a broad meaning of a “making”, seen also in such terms as “hemopoiesis”; more narrowly, the making of poetry) is a form of literary art which uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning.
Poetry has a long history, dating back to the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. Early poems evolved from folk songs such as the Chinese Shijing, or from a need to retell oral epics, as with the Sanskrit Vedas, Zoroastrian Gathas, and the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Ancient attempts to define poetry, such as Aristotle’s Poetics, focused on the uses of speech in rhetoric, drama, song and comedy. Later attempts concentrated on features such as repetition, verse form and rhyme, and emphasized the aesthetics which distinguish poetry from more objectively-informative, prosaic forms of writing. From the mid-20th century, poetry has sometimes been more generally regarded as a fundamental creative act employing language.
Poetry uses forms and conventions to suggest differential interpretation to words, or to evoke emotive responses. Devices such as assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia and rhythm are sometimes used to achieve musical or incantatory effects. The use of ambiguity, symbolism, irony and other stylistic elements of poetic diction often leaves a poem open to multiple interpretations. Similarly, metaphor, simile and metonymy create a resonance between otherwise disparate images—a layering of meanings, forming connections previously not perceived. Kindred forms of resonance may exist, between individual verses, in their patterns of rhyme or rhythm.
Some poetry types are specific to particular cultures and genres and respond to characteristics of the language in which the poet writes. Readers accustomed to identifying poetry with Dante, Goethe, Mickiewicz and Rumi may think of it as written in lines based on rhyme and regular meter; there are, however, traditions, such as Biblical poetry, that use other means to create rhythm and euphony. Much modern poetry reflects a critique of poetic tradition, playing with and testing, among other things, the principle of euphony itself, sometimes altogether forgoing rhyme or set rhythm. In today’s increasingly globalized world, poets often adapt forms, styles and techniques from diverse cultures and languages.
In my personal opinion poetry is the most beautiful and attractive forms of art.