Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea by Nikki Giovanni

Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea by Nikki Giovanni hums with the rhythm of spoken word poetry and the jazz of human experience.  Each poem carries with it an essence that reflects the Black experience from the capture and transportation of slaves and what that should teach us about how to treat people to the lessons we carry with us once our relatives die.  Her poetry is frank and honest, but it pulls no punches to ensure that readers understand that there are deep wrongs that can be learned from as long as we are willing to look at them closely.  It may be difficult to review past transgressions without jumping to defend or shy away from shame, but her poems cause you to meet those challenges head on and to learn from our own follies.

At other times, her verse decries the blind eye that we turn every day to our own situations and histories, wishing that there were a different outcome or social norm.  Giovanni’s poems focus a bit on the Black experience, but in many ways her verse and perspective transcends beyond those parameters to reach out to all of humanity.  From “Possum Crossing” (page 5), “All birds being the living kin of dinosaurs/think themselves invincible and pay no heed/to the rolling wheels while they dine/on an unlucky rabbit//”

Giovanni also takes her readers on a historic journey through the struggle for civil rights and equality in poems dedicated to Gwendolyn Brooks and poems about Martin Luther King and more.  Her poems aren’t just about the past, but about contemporary people and events and the strength and conviction they display.  Her poems range from the traditional free verse to the narrative prose-like poems that read like a stream of consciousness.

From “Symphony of the Sphinx” (page 19):

“I have to remember Africa each night as I lay me down to
sleep The patchwork quilt my Great-Grandmother patched
one patch two patches three patches more I learned to count by
those patches I learned my numbers by those patches the ones
that hit and the many thousand gone I learned my patience by
those patches that clove to each other to keep me warm”

Giovanni’s imagery and matter-of-fact tone tells it like it is without pretense, and readers will take a journey with her through her own life experiences.  “Talk to me, Poem . . . I’m all alone . . . Nobody understands what/I’m saying . . . ” from “Shoulders Are for Emergencies Only” (page 15) is a lament that resurfaces, but readers nod in agreement as Giovanni expresses each observation.  “We hear you,” they will say.  There is a patchwork of poetry here that weaves history with the present and struggle with joy to generate the warmth family, friends, and life can bring.  Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea by Nikki Giovanni is sensational and touching.

Books & Interviews With Nikki Giovanni:

This is my 33rd book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

112th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 112th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s books suggested. Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Also, sign up for the 2011 Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry. Please contribute to the growing list of 2011 Indie Lit Award Poetry Suggestions, visit the stops on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour from April.

Today’s poem is from Nikki Giovanni‘s Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea collection:

A Robin's Nest in Snow (page 6)

Outside the window of my den
Where I sit usually counting clouds
Or airplanes or chipmunks scurrying by
On a snowy day I still see
The nest through the flurries

Snowflakes are so delicate they melt
     On your tongue
Sit proudly
     on your shoulders
Tangle themselves
     in your braids

Last spring I didn't know
A bird had made a home
In my river birch
There was activity but I thought
It was the crepe myrtle
Only when the tree exhaled
Did the life reveal itself

The snow piled up neatly
Filling the crevice
Hopefully destroying the viruses and bacteria
That can attack the young still blind robins
And I a survivor of lung cancer nestle
Hope in my heart that no harm will remain
When Spring and birds return

Let me know your thoughts, ideas, feelings, impressions. Let’s have a great discussion…pick a line, pick an image, pick a sentence.

I’ve you missed the other Virtual Poetry Circles. It’s never too late to join the discussion.

Mailbox Monday #137

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  This month our host is Life in the Thumb.  Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.  Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

From Borders, which is the only local book store in my town and had the best employees who had great recommendations every time I went in; it also was the only store with a good three-to-four shelves of poetry near me and outside the immediate D.C. city:

1.  The Postcard Killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund, which I bought for my mom’s birthday (good thing she doesn’t read the blog).

2.  Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1 by Stephenie Meyer and adapted by Young Kim

3.  Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan, which I bought to complete the Ireland Reading Challenge and because I just missed out on the TLC Book Tour.

4.  Ideal Cities by Erika Meitner; yes, this is just one of the books I snagged from the poetry section.

5.  The Broken Word by Adam Foulds

6.  Here, Bullet by Brian Turner

7.  Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea by Nikki Giovanni, which I picked up because I loved her selection of poems in (Hip Hop Speaks to Children (my review)

8.  Ballistics by Billy Collins

9. Falling Up by Shel Silverstein

10. Don't Bump the Glump! by Shel Silverstein

11. Runny Babbit by Shel Silverstein

12. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

13. Peter Rabbit's Tale by Beatrix Potter

14. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss; our version says its made with recycled paper.

15. Dr. Seuss's Circus McGurkus 1,2,3! (plush)

From Anna for Wiggles:

16. Winnie the Pooh and Piglet's Book of Opposites

17. Winnie the Pooh All Year Long

18. Adventures of Rusty & Ginger Fox by Tim Ostermeyer

And books that came in the mail for review:

19. The Tree It Was by Sandra Fuhringer

What did you receive this week?