They say never meet your heroes—but in some cases, they’re more fun than you imagined. That was the case when award-winning poet, educator and living literary legend Nikki Giovanni blessed The Root Presents: It’s Lit! podcast with an appearance last December as we prepared to enter what we all hoped would be a happier new year—with a much healthier outlook and administration. Obviously, it’s been a mixed bag since then, but having been both activist and artist for over half a century, Giovanni was taking the moment in stride when we spoke, having recently published her latest book of poems and prose, Make Me Rain. As described by her publisher, HarperCollins, the volume is “powerful and deeply personal collection of verse that speaks to the injustices of society while illuminating the depths of her own heart”—a description with which we wholeheartedly agreed.
During our wide-ranging interview, Giovanni explained she’d named her latest volume after a jazz tune. Like jazz, she takes an improvisational approach to both writing and conversation, riffing on subjects including voting, her favorite foods (her own fried chicken chief among them), and aging. Now 78, Giovanni, is still reaching new milestones; aside from continuing to write and publish, recently the longtime University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech was announced as the Writer-in-Residence at Texas HBCU Prairie View A&M University, through the writing program named for her friend and contemporary Toni Morrison. According to Black Enterprise, her tenure will kick off the upcoming 2021-2022 academic year with a virtual series on September 27 to 29.
With this in mind, we decided to revisit our conversation with Giovanni for last week’s recast of The Root Presents: It’s Lit!—which is the last recast of our monthlong hiatus. We’ll be back with new episodes beginning this Thursday, but as you bring your holiday weekend (and sadly, our summer) to a close, enjoy some improvisational wisdom from the legendary Nikki Giovanni in this recast of The Root Presents: It’s Lit!: Poetically Justified, With Nikki Giovanni, available on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, Amazon, TuneIn, and Radio Public. There is also a transcript available for this episode.