The composers that I know spend time alone and sing to themselves. It’s wonderful because they would never have heard those sounds if they’d been going out and around. We who write, we who sing, we who create—we’re just trying to capture what we see.
– Nikki Giovanni, episode 245 of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso
For the past 50 years, Nikki Giovanni has been one of our preeminent poets. She joins this week, reflecting on how her childhood led to a life of writing (4:28), the enduring impact of a televised conversation with James Baldwin (11:40), the story behind her famous poem, “I Married My Mother” (16:30), and why she doesn’t believe in role models (21:43). On the back-half, we work our way to the present, as Nikki shares her experience of visiting the African American Museum (27:15), the evolution of her poetry (30:02), and how she grappled with two cancer diagnoses (33:55). To close, Nikki reads from her inventive about the author page (39:17).
- Get your copy of Nikki’s latest poetry collection, Make Me Rain.
- Watch the full conversation between Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin here.
- To learn more about Nikki’s life and work, visit her personal website.
- Support Library of America and purchase their poetry anthology, African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song.
- Hear our past conversations with poets and writers: Ocean Vuong, Claudia Rankine, Morgan Parker, Gloria Steinem, Dr. Cornel West, Elizabeth Gilbert, Roxane Gay, and George Saunders.
Illustration by: Krishna Shenoi