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"A Good Cry; What We Learn From Tears and Laughter" from Nikki Giovanni


Poet and  Distinguished Virginia Tech Professor, Nikki Giovanni is known around the world as an outspoken, funny and insightful writer. Her 27th collection is called “A Good Cry; What We Learn from Tears and Laughter.”       

Nikki Giovanni 's new book, “A Good Cry,’ is a mix of poetry and prose that reads like a story of her life. It highlights the bright sparks and low moments, what she loves and what she doesn’t.

“Last time I had to be in a hospital I cried when I left." 

At 74, she’s had some medical issues of late, but this poem is true. Here’s why she cried:  “I like hospitals. Everybody is so nice. You know, they come in, in the morning and everybody, from the nurses, the people who are making your bed, they all are trying to make you feel comfortable.”

Here’s part of a poem she wrote about it called, “If I Have to Hospital.”

"If I have to hospital, please, let it be in Appalachia, with the nasal voices and soft smiles.  Are they so efficiently run because of the Hatfields and the McCoys?                            A lot of practice time.” (laughs)


Giovanni is originally from Knoxville Tennessee. She’s lived in New York and other places but she’s proud to call herself Appalachian. A professor of the arts and sciences, she’s interested in the way each informs the other, especially when it comes to one of her major passions. 

"I’m also a space freak.  I really, really, like space.  And of course, the American space group came from Appalachians.  You know, look at all of them, John Glenn, those people are Appalachians.  It’s because they’re used to being quiet.  They’re used to spending time by themselves and they’re not afraid of going into the dark.”

This poem called Space: Our Frontier speaks of epic journeys to faraway places, some intentional some not.

We seek Antarctica because we no longer have Middle Passage Available.

We seek Antarctica because we, who are Appalachian understand the talking of

the wind and the quiet of the midnight sun.

We seek Antarctica because poetry gave birth to math and science

And not the other way around.

Giovanni says it’s the day dreamers, science fiction writers and the poets who conjure up wild and fantastical ideas for the mathematicians and scientists to make real.

“No matter how far back we go, it’s the poets, it’s the artists who are saying, ‘This is what we should do how can we do it?’ People are going to come along and they’re going to say, 'Oh, this is how you do it.’ They’re going figure out ‘this is what you do it.’"

"I don’t’ do anything like that I’m just a poet."

Credit Robbie Harris
Nikki Giovanni at WVTF's Blacksburg, VA Bureau

But Giovanni has a suggestion for astronauts and other fellow travelers; if you’re going on a long journey, you’d be wise to take a book of poetry along. “Because, how many times are you going to read a novel? Once or twice or twice, but you can read a poem again and again and again and every time you read a poem, you’re getting something else out of it.  It’s like a song you get to sing it again and again and the older you get, the more the song means something else to you.”

Nikki Giovanni’s new collection of her poetry is called, A good cry – What we learn from tears and laughter, published by Harper Collins.

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.