Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Poet At Center Of Firestorm

Further developments on the Nikki Giovanni/Ken Blackwell story.

In an article in The Cincinatti Inquirer, poet Nikki Giovanni is quoted as follows with regard to her Saturday poetry reading in Fountain Square:

Giovanni isn't happy about the criticism or controversy. But she's not apologizing, either.

"All I have is my voice," she said. "I don't want it silenced. We were on (Fountain Square) where the Klan gathered to speak. I'm not sure as many people called to complain about what the Klan had to say as what I said."

Giovanni said Fountain Square has a long history as a place where controversial and sometimes unpopular issues are voiced.

"There's never an appropriate place," she said. "The square is a place for free speech and public dialogue."

Giovanni added, "I think Kenny is not a nice person. I think you can tell that by what I wrote."

Miss Giovanni's remarks are balanced by the following:

Keith Fangman, vice president of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, was unhappy about a line in the poem that referred to police shootings of young black men. He called the reference "inflammatory."

"What a great way to welcome the cop-hating, racist element back to Fountain Square," he said sarcastically.

Fangman said 3CDC leadership was to blame for the "PR nightmare" created by Giovanni's remarks. "Any imbecile should have known that Nikki Giovanni is an ill-tempered, foul-mouthed, left-wing, political militant and should never have been invited to speak at this celebration."

If that's not an imflamitory, militantly Right-wing, not to say vicious remark, this blogger doesn't know what is.

Moreover, I find it highly inappropriate for a police officer to make such nakedly partazan remarks in a newspaper, especially when he is specifically identified as Vice President of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police. Frankly, a poet *is* free to express her private views in any place and in any way she sees fit. A police officer is not. If Mr. Fangman had been speaking as a private citizen, he, too, would have been free to be as partizan as he wished. However, for him to speak as he did in his capacity as an officer of the law is distasteful and shows poor judgment on his part, to say the very least.

We wholeheartedly support Miss Giovanni's courage and artistic integrity, as well as her inalienable right to free speech.

Thanks to Renee*in*Ohio at Howard Empowered People for highlighting this controversy.

Monday, October 16, 2006

No Laurels For Nikki If Ken Wins?

Yesterday, Plunderbund ran this story about poet Nikki Giovanni:

I Am Not A Son Of A Bitch Like Kenny Blackwell

It is unclear whether the entire text of Miss Giovanni's poem is included in the article, or only most of it.

A strong, evocative poem, "I Am Cincinatti" is not necessarily well served by the hypertopical refferences IMO. My hunch is that they may be removed when the poem is printed. Still, Miss Giovanni demonstrates the power of poetry and the public engagement that I feel is an integral part of being a poet. She also showed no little courage.

We applaud Nikki Giovanni for her poem and the courage to perform it.

Read more:
Nikki Giovanni's web site

New U.S. Poet Laureate

Donald Hall has been named U.S. Poet Laureate. A prolific essayest as well as poet Mr. Hall, who lives in New Hampshire, writes movingly and vividly about the natural, day to day world around him.

Asked about the future of poetry, he expressed optimism. Poetry is infinitely more popular today, he told The News Hour's Jeffrey Brown, than when he was a boy. Today, Mr. Hall pointed out, it seems that there's a poetry reading on every block.

We congratulate Mr. Hall on his achievement.

Read more:
Poet Laureate Donald Hall Reflects on Age and Nature
PBS News Hour: Poet Profile - Donald Hall
Donald Hall's poetry at the Poetry Foundation's web site

Interestingly, while the just departed Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky wrote a statement of conscience supporting Sam Hamil and the Poets Against The War movement, Mr. Hall does not appear to have any material at their site. One cannot help but wonder whether this nonappearance has anything to do with Mr. Hall's appointment. Maybe I'm just paranoid.