Poet Nikki Giovanni is out with a new collection of poems and essays, "Chasing Utopia," inspired by her efforts to move forward after the death of her mother.
She spoke to Tell Me More's Michel Martin about the title of her collection:
Well, it really is that my mom died now in 2005. And so it's been a while, but, you know, losing your mother, even though it's the right order of things, is sad. I was a mother's child. And I stayed very, very sad. And I finally said, you know, Nikki, you have to get out of this. And Mommy, every day — we knew that Mommy was dying when she said no, she didn't want a beer, because every day of her life, she drank a beer. And so I said to myself, well, I'm missing Mommy, why don't I have a beer? But I really — I hate to say it, Michel, I just don't like beer.
And so it was like, OK, if you're going to drink a beer, then you ought to drink the No. 1 beer in the world. So I went and looked it up. Well, it turns out it's Utopias, which is actually a beer by Sam Adams.
Her search for the beer to honor her mom became an adventure as she realized how hard it was to find in stores.
Giovanni, 70, also takes on aging and death in the collection. From The Michigan Daily:
In "I Am At That Point," she writes, "embracing the old things is a good new thing." This simple phrase captures the overall essence of the book, looking fondly at growing up in the suburbs of Cincinnati and summers with her grandparents in Tennessee.
There is no aging without the concept of death at the finish line, and the darker poems within "Utopia" are unafraid to explore it. While there are poems about the passing of old friends and family, one of the sadder anecdotes within the book makes mention of the lives lost during the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. Giovanni, who was a professor of English at the university during the shooting, actually taught shooter Seung-Hui Cho in a poetry class. But these poems tinged with sadness are only a small percentage of the overall content in "Utopia."
Giovanni joins The Daily Circuit to discuss her latest work.