Author of newly released Bicycles, Nikki Giovanni gives tips on writing a love poem
February 2, 2009
A new book of love poetry has been published by internationally known author Nikki Giovanni, University Distinguished Professor of English at Virginia Tech.
Bicycles (Harper Collins) is a collection of poetry that serves as a companion to her widely acclaimed 1997 Love Poems.
“Bicycles are trust and balance…and that’s what love is,” said Giovanni of her latest book that includes 65 poems to match Giovanni’s 65 years of age. Although recent years have brought Giovanni much sadness, including the death of her mother and sister, as well as the tragedy at Virginia Tech, she still confirms that you have to find what’s good.
The book jacket proclaims, “Here romantic love – and all its manifestations, the physical touch, the emotional pull, the hungry heart – is distilled as never before by one of our most talented poets.” The NY Times noted, “Giovanni is as outspoken, prolific, and energetic as ever.”
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Bicycles has hit the shelves. Reading it aloud may be a great way to start off a romantic evening but if creating an original poem sounds intriguing, Giovanni reflects on what it takes to write a love poem | Listen (MP3):
“5-If I could give just one piece of advice about writing a love poem I would remind the writer that love is about the lover not the beloved. It’s about how you feel not how he responds. That should free you to set your heart on your sleeve; no one is going to knock it off.
“4-Everything about love and life is the simplicity of it. The most important thing to keep in mind is to be clear. The Dells sang Love Is So Simple and I think they are right. Nat ‘King’ Cole sang I Love You (for Sentimental Reasons); clear as a bell. Cole Porter wrote You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To. Classic. All of them. Clear. You can feel the longing.
“3-The most common writing mistake, period, is complication. The reader does not want to figure out what you mean. Neither does your beloved. Prince says I Want To Be Your Lover. Boom. You know where you stand.
“2-There must be an internal rhythm to a love poem; the desire must come out. The mistake a lot of people make is to over-think the poem. To reach out for images when just letting the longing of the heart come through would be sufficient.
“1-If someone writes you a love poem you’d have to be an idiot to say it was not a good poem. That’s like someone saying ‘I love that dress on you’ and you saying ‘What? This ole thing?’ The proper answer is a sweet smile and a thank you. If you have feelings for that person you can always blush.”
Giovanni concludes, “Writing a good love poem is like being a good lover. You have to touch, taste, take your time to tell that this is real. The Supremes say You Can’t Hurry Love and you can’t fake it, either.”
The author of 30 books, Giovanni won a 2008 American Book Award for The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni 1968-1998. Over the course of more than three decades of publishing and lecturing she has come to be called both a “National Treasure” and, most recently, one of Oprah Winfrey’s twenty-five “Living Legends.” The winner of four NAACP Image Awards, Giovanni’s honors have been steady and plentiful throughout her career. She was the first recipient of the Rosa L. Parks Woman of Courage Award, and she has also been awarded the Langston Hughes Medal for poetry. A scientist who admires her work even named a new species of bat he discovered for her.