In the 1970s, poet Nikki Giovanni was called The Princess of Black Poetry. She was friends with Angela Davis and James Baldwin, and appeared on magazine covers wearing radical fashions to match her lyrical, uplifting messages. Today, shes a professor at Virginia Tech; yes, that VT a poem about the massacre appears in her new book Bicycles: Love Poems. She hasnt taken off the poetry crown in 40 years, and shes as uncompromising in her support of civil rights as ever. An online video shows her speaking to college students, encouraging them to Do the Rosa Parks. Sit down. Stand up. Eminently quotable, Giovanni makes trenchant observations even when not in verse: No matter whats wrong with you, good wine and good sex will make you feel better, for example. In an interview about Bicycles, Bill Moyers asked her what it takes to write a love poem. A generous spirit and a willingness to make a fool of yourself, she grinned. But what, he continued, do bicycles have to do with the big questions facing humanity? Love and life and bicycles are about trust and balance, she answered. Its about riding it and believing that this thing that doesnt make sense for you to be on, can move. Local author Gwen Mazers Conversations with Wise Women series presents Giovanni reading and riffing, as Mazers website says, as well as signing copies of Bicycles.
Sat., June 26, 3 p.m., 2010