Welcomed with a poem and a standing ovation, Nikki Giovanni shared a wide range of opinions, ideas and poems with an audience of more than 400 on Oct. 4, 2012, at Thomas Nelson Community College. The award-winning author of more than 30 volumes of poetry and prose was introduced in a poem by Hollis Pruitt, coordinator of Creative Writing at TNCC. Holding forth on topics such as the presidential debate the night before, Black America, voting rights, immigration, Virginia Tech, Appalachians, to love, bicycles, ants and TV game shows, Giovanni amused and touched her audience with stories and readings of her poems.
The author talk and book-signing was presented free to the public by the Virginia Peninsula Literary Consortium, which consists of the public libraries of Newport News, Hampton, Poquoson and York County and the academic libraries of Christopher Newport University, Hampton University and Thomas Nelson Community College.
After watching the first debate the night before, “Who in their right mind would want to run for president?” she asked. On Virginia Tech, where she is a university distinguished professor, “Our art should be as good as our athletics.”
As a native of Knoxville, Tenn., she condemned the degrading of Appalachian “hillbillies” and West Virginians. “These are great people to be honored. They stood for something. They wouldn’t be slaveholders, and they wouldn’t send their sons to die for one.”
She discussed the death of her mother and falling in love. “You write poetry if you fall in love. No matter what you do, you can have a poem. … For anyone who hasn’t been in love, I recommend it. You feel better, you look better and you help the economy. It’s fun and a good idea.”
Explaining that her evening routine of eating dinner while watching “Jeopardy” could give her ulcers, she started watching “Deal or No Deal” instead, because it required less thought. When she mentioned to a class that she might want to be a contestant, they were afraid she would make a fool of herself, which hurt her feelings, she said. “If the first time I make a fool of myself is on ‘Deal or No Deal,’ don’t you know I’ve lived a charmed life?” she said.
She concluded by reading her poem “Ego-Tripping,” which elicited sighs and a standing ovation as she exited the stage. She returned to answer audience questions and sign books for a long line of fans.
The Giovanni author talk and book-signing was the sixth free author event sponsored by the Virginia Peninsula Literary Consortium, which presented the best-selling authors Amy Tan in 2007, Walter Mosley in 2008, David Baldacci in 2009, Orson Scott Card in 2010 and Catherine Coulter in 2011. The Consortium formed in 2006 to encourage the study and enjoyment of books and to foster cooperation among all types of libraries on the Peninsula.
The event also was supported by a grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and donations from library friends groups, library and educational foundations and other local businesses and organizations.
For more information, please call 757-926-1350 or visit www.thevplc.org/. To keep up-to-date on Consortium author events, sign up for the emailed newsletter or “like” the Consortium’s Facebook page.