Poetry News

Nikki Giovanni's Chasing Utopia Reviewed at Jacket Copy

By Harriet Staff


She's amazing! David L. Ulin reviews Nikki Giovanni's newest book, Chasing Utopia, at Jacket Copy. The book is a blend of poetry and prose.

“A poem is not so much read as navigated,” Nikki Giovanni writes in “Chasing Utopia” (Morrow: 144 pp., $19.99). “We go from point to point discovering a new horizon, a shift of light or laughter, an exhilaration of newness that we had missed before. Even familiar, or perhaps especially familiar, poems bring the excitement of first nighters, first encounters, first love … when viewed and reviewed.”

That’s a pretty good description of what Giovanni is up to in this book, which is marked by her signature blend of toughness and accessibility, engagement in the private and the public sphere. At the same time, she is doing something different here, mixing prose and poetry to create what she calls “A Hybrid,” a collection that blurs the lines of content and form.

“Chasing Utopia” is intimate, personal, what we might call a commonplace book, blending memories, reflections, even recipes. At its center is the notion of family — Giovanni’s parents, her aunts, her son — an ideal of domesticity. “I used to watch / my mother cook,” she writes, “she would invariably sigh / a little sigh then light / a cigarette // since no one smokes / anymore Beans / have not tasted as good // I have her sigh / and stack of spices.”

Read on at Jacket Copy.

Originally Published: December 10th, 2013