I was fascinated when I discovered distinguished poet, Nikki Giovanni, embraced poetry slam. I have to admit, I felt validated listening to poetry slam, and it was encouraging to know that Nikki Giovanni approved of this poetic form. I didn't feel swallowed up in an identify filled with children, grocery shopping, laundry and all things a stay-at-home mom is supposed to do. While I don't listen to poetry slam a lot, whenever I do, the cadence, the strength emanating from the words, makes me feel powerful and free.
Nikki Giovanni is a world-renowned poet, an activist, a Distinguished Professor of English at Virginia Tech, and Grammy-nominated poet. She has been awarded 25 Honorary Doctorate degrees and is a recipient of a multitude of awards and honors. Last year, Nikki Giovanni was at the forefront of national news with her moving Virginia Tech convocation address, meant to heal after a horrific killing spree that shocked the world.
Nikki Giovanni has written many books of poems--for adults and for children--celebrating truth and the power within oneself. Her latest anthology of poems, Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat (received from the publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.), is a collection of 51 poems from a variety of notable poets--Gwendolyn Brooks, Gary Soto, Langston Hughes, Calef Brown, Maya Angelou, W.E.B. DuBois, Nikki Giovanni and more. There is even an audio cd of 30 of the poems, performed by the poets and well-known artists--such as Queen Latifah, The Sugarhill Gang, The Tribe Called Quest--so the child can hear the rhythm and beat of the poems and learn how to deliver a poem.
Children (and adults) will learn about stories in rhythm from this book and as Nikki Giovanni writes in the Introduction:
"Thirty years ago, kids invented a new sound. They took old music, added their own new poetry, and found a way to have their creative voices heard. The Hip Hop Nation was born, sharing a courageous story of their hopes and promise with the world. And the world evermore is glad.Poetry with a beat. That's hip hop in a flash. One part story, one part rhythm..."
Here is a link of Ms. Giovanni performing one of her poems from the book--Ego Tripping.
Children will be empowered by poems like Doubtless by Steve Ericson:
"When I was seven,I looked to heavenand dreamedof going to the moonbut pretty soonsomebody came alongto change my tune.They put me down.Bang! There my dream layon the ground.Thank God, eventuallyI came aroundand dreamed another dream..."
There is even an excerpt from Martin Luther King's powerful speech--I Have a Dream, which still now, resonates hope for people.
This is a book meant to be read aloud with your child--whispering, chanting, hugging these words, their power, their strength, their inspiration. Some of these poems are better suited for older children, ages 9 - 12 and up. But, no matter what, these poems will create conversation--of curiousity, of need--and that, I believe is a good thing.
Imagine my smile when I saw the Rapper's Delight in this book. I danced to this when I was in high school. What still hasn't changed in all these years is I still can't say the words to this song without tripping over my tongue. Try it...
"I said a hip hop the hippie to the hippiethe hip hip hop, a you don't stopthe rock it to the bang bang boogie say up jumped the boogieto the rhythm of the boogie, the beatskiddlee beebop a we rock a scoobie dooand guess what America we love you..."
What I love about having the audio cd with the book, is you can hear the rhythm and the beat of the words, and it will help a child with the delivery, the enunciation, the flow of the words. All key as the child is gaining skill in reading and speaking.
Curious what Rapper's Delight is supposed to sound like? Want to get an idea of what people dressed like in 1978? Check out this YouTube video...
Listen to Nikki Giovanni talk about Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat in the YouTube video below:
Enjoy your weekend.