Happy Birthday Nikki Giovanni!

Friends, today is the birthday of a wonderfully powerful poet and activist, Nikki Giovanni.  I learned about her work when I was studying to become an elementary school teacher.  She wrote a book called Rosa, about Rosa Parks.  You might recognize her name because she was a very important actor in the Civil Rights Movement, specifically for her resistance to racism in the public bus system.  We have this book in our class if you want to read it!  It's also beautifully illustrated.

Read the three poems below (A Summer of Love, My First Memory (of Librarians), and Crutches) and answer the questions.


Clouds float by on a summer sky
I hop scotch over to you
Rainbows arch from ground to gold
I climb over to you
Thunder grumbles, lightning tumbles
And I bounce over to you
Sun beams back and catches me
Smiling over at you


This is my first memory:
A big room with heavy wooden tables that sat on a creaky
wood floor
A line of green shades—bankers' lights—down the center
Heavy oak chairs that were too low or maybe I was simply
too short
For me to sit in and read
So my first book was always big
In the foyer up four steps a semi-circle desk presided
To the left side the card catalogue
On the right newspapers draped over what looked like
a quilt rack
Magazines face out from the wall
The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books—another world—just waiting
At my fingertips. 


it's not the crutches we decry
it's the need to move forward
though we haven't the strength

women aren't allowed to need
so they develop rituals
since we all know working hands idle
the devil
women aren't supposed to be strong
so they develop social smiles
and secret drinking problems
and female lovers whom they never touch
except in dreams

men are supposed to be strong
so they have heart attacks
and develop other women
who don't know their weaknesses
and hide their fears
behind male lovers
whom they religiously touch
each saturday morning on the basketball court
it's considered a sign of health doncha know
that they take such good care
of their bodies


1. Which of the poems is most interesting to you?  Why?

2. Are there some new words in the poems?  Write a list of them.

3. Do you have any favorite lines in any of the poems?