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Poet Nikki Giovanni to speak at KU

Monday, March 27, 2017

LAWRENCE – Nikki Giovanni, one of the most acclaimed poets to emerge from the Civil Rights Era and Black Arts Movement, will visit the University of Kansas to deliver a lecture.

Giovanni will present “Poetry: A New Conversation” at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, at Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union. A book signing will follow immediately after. An open forum with students is also scheduled for noon Wednesday, April 5, at the Sabatini Multicultural Resource Center.

Giovanni is known as a prolific poet, writer, activist and educator. She established herself in her early career as a prominent voice with a revolutionary perspective on political, social and cultural experiences of African-Americans in the 1960s and ’70s. Her first volume of poems, “Black Feeling, Black Talk” (1967), sold more than 10,000 copies in its first year.

An Oprah Winfrey “living legend,” Giovanni's range is expansive and diverse in a career that spans 50 years with books for children and older adults, creative nonfiction and spoken word albums. In recent history, she’s also known for a poem she delivered following the Virginia Tech University shooting in 2007 that went viral. Her most recent publication is “Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid” (2013).

“For a lot of us, Nikki Giovanni’s passion, fearlessness in breaking the silence and speaking the truth became a model we needed. She took poetry to new heights with a voice that has never wavered,” said Maryemma Graham, University Distinguished Professor of English and director of the Project on the History of Black Writing at KU. “As her title says, we do need to have a new conversation, one with fearless truth. Students who don't know her now will definitely take away a powerful message from this visit.”

Since 1987, Giovanni has taught at Virginia Tech University, where she is a University Distinguished Professor. She has been recognized with several honors, including 25 honorary doctorates, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, several NAACP Image Awards, the Rosa Parks Women of Courage Award, the Langston Hughes Award and the Maya Angelou Lifetime Achievement Award.

Giovanni’s visit to KU is presented by the Project on the History of Black Writing, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Hall Center for the Humanities, Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and its Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Office of First-Year Experience, Spencer Museum of Art, Department of English, Department of African & African-American Studies, Office of the Chancellor, Office of the Provost and KU Bookstore.