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Nikki Giovanni: On Self-Doubt, Contemporary America, and Her Legendary Poetry

In this episode of Badass Black Girl, M.J. talks to legendary poet and activist Nikki Giovanni. They discuss why self-doubt is a bad idea, and Nikki gives advice to new writers. M.J. asks Nikki, "If you could speak to your younger self, what would you say to her?" They discuss Black Lives Matter and the Civil Rights Movement, and talk about contemporary writers Nikki is reading right now. They also discuss what makes her happy, ancestors and their importance. M.J. asks her who her role models were and what they taught her. Nikki talks about the importance of friendship and tells a story about finding a hog’s head in her mother’s refrigerator. She gives advice for young people who want to celebrate their roots. Nikki talks about the United States, its current situation, and the January 6 attack on the Capitol. M.J. asks her which, out of all the poems she’s written, is her favorite and Nikki talks about the importance of nature.

Nikki Giovanni is one of America’s foremost poets. Over the course of a long career, Giovanni has published numerous collections of poetry—from her first self-published volume Black Feeling Black Talk (1968) to New York Times bestseller Bicycles: Love Poems (2009)—several works of nonfiction and children’s literature, and multiple recordings, including the Emmy-award nominated The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection (2004). Her most recent publications include Make Me Rain: Poems and Prose (2020), Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid (2013) and, as editor, The 100 Best African American Poems (2010). A frequent lecturer and reader, Giovanni has taught at Rutgers University, Ohio State University, and Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor.


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