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Blues: For All the Changes: New Poems Hardcover – April 21, 1999
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From Library Journal
Social and/or political poetry often fails because it loses touch with humanity; it gets distracted by issues and forgets about the impact of things on people. Giovanni never loses sight of the people in her work. In poems built with broken lines and paragraphs of prose, she spars with the ills that confront us, but every struggle has a human face. Ask Roger Woody, of the Woody Pipe and Excavating Company, who is destroying the wonderful woodland adjacent to Giovanni's home and readying it for a new housing development. When a young basketball star is harassed for his youth and style ("Iverson"), she assumes the role of compassionate but stern sister. She is no less forthcoming with her opinions of the President and his woes. At times you wonder what makes these soapbox oratories poems. You will not find many familiar rhetorical devices here, but you will want to dance to the music, the rhythms and language, the sound and exacting energy of these poemsAwhich is more than enough.ALouis McKee, Painted Bride Arts Ctr., Philadelphia
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
The much-published Giovanni has been amply rewarded for a career thats been spotty to say the least. Unlike fellow doggerelist Maya Angelou, Giovanni has no prose works of distinctionher Racism 101 (1994) hardly measures up to Angelous moving memoirs. So her reputation rests largely with her poetry, which, given this latest volume, is a sad spectacle: a lazy collection of prose rants with lots of ellipses to disguise the scatter-brained thinking. Her litanies of racist episodes from history, her ghetto-thug affectations, and her Oprahesque bits of uplift are all tired rhetorical devices and rely on a vocabulary of pop journalism and advertising (No problem / No Sweat / Just Jazz). Things turn so embarrassingly strange here that Giovanni mentions five or so times her personal animus toward a real-estate developer in her hometown who threatens the view from her backyard. A typical stream-of- consciousness bit links Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, black holes in science, and Sally Hemmings. Another celebrates the author and other revolutionary poets for understanding the power of a poem, with asides on the Nation of Islam and dietary habits. Giovannis political views become seriously discomfiting when her peroration on civil rights devolves into a chilling prescription for utopia. Elsewhere, she defends the presidential penis and offensively attacks anti-rap crusader C Delores Tucker . . . fuck her fuck her fuck her. Despite the infantile politics, Giovanni includes many short and light ditties, with their schoolgirl rhymes, that suggest her one strength: simple childrens verse that jumps and jives. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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This book is divided into two main sections. The first 32 poems are called 'flatted thirds and sevenths.' Some of the poems in this section are short elliptical pieces that are hard-hitting while others are long flowing prose pieces without any punctuation --meant to be read with the natural breathing rhythm of the reader. My favorite in this section is 'Visible Ink'(p.15) This poem which starts out describing the imperfections of folks from the Bible to Hollywood is a an extension of the blues being " . . . about truth-telling." Yes, we all have imperfections, but it is through those imperfections that we learn what true living is all about. Through imperfections, real heroes arise and become the forerunners in the necessary changes we see and need in our lifetime. Other great poems in this section deals with topics that range from the Underground Railroad, civil rights, and hatred to special tributes to key people in our society like Betty Shabazz and Jackie Robinson.
The final 20 poems in this book are called 'fugue.' All of the poetry in this section depict the daily rhythm of human life coming together as we know it. These poems reflect our changing seasons, our dreams and aspirations, as well as our transient from this life to the next. This book is filled with poetry for every mood, emotion, and celebration!
Despite some critics believing that BLUES FOR ALL THE CHANGES is just another book about black anger in poetic form; or that Giovanni's opinions, though based in reality, are wrong subjective conclusions . . . I find her work representative of the emotions and ideas that many Black people have about life in this country. I believe BLUES FOR ALL THE CHANGES resonants in truth and is an excellent read for National Poetry Month!
This book begins with a poem called "The Wrong Kitchen" which talks about self-love. For those of you who know what a "kitchen" is on a black woman then you would know where she is going with it. This poem instantly became one of my favorites. It's not an angry poem but an insightful and emotional piece that is really about the conditions of society that need to be corrected. Two of my other favorite poems in this collection are "Invisible Ink" and "Truman's Baby".
This book is a great buy for any lover of poetry. Giovanni is actually the poet that inspired me to write because she knows how to lay the truth in your lap like a protected child but she also knows how to slap you in the face with truth when it needs to be done.
With that said....BUY THE BOOK!
(I also recommend: Love Poems and Black Feeling/Black Talk/Black Judgement ... all by Giovanni)