In 2008, internationally renowned poet Nikki Giovanni released an anthology for kids, "Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat," that included a CD with 30 of the selections as spoken-word performances. Giovanni is back with a new poetry anthology called "The 100 Best African American Poems (But I Cheated)." Giovanni told NPR that she'd actually included 221 poems in the collection by the time she finished. Her inclusion of spoken-word CDs with both anthologies draws on the West African tradition of the griot, a West African historian, increasingly popular in the US.
Syracuse poet and playwright Jackie Warren-Moore, who has already had work appear in a number of national anthologies, found out in August that Giovanni had accepted two of her poems for the new collection, though they appear as one under the title, "She Wears Red." Warren-Moore also will have three poems in the 2011 edition of "Stone Canoe: A Journal of Upstate Arts and Ideas," which comes out in February and whose poetry editor this year is Minnie Bruce Pratt. Warren-Moore has also authored and produced a number of plays such as "Freedom's Stone: The Jerry Rescue," and "Father's Day." She teaches poetry in the schools and has been a frequently-invited and popular spoken-word performer herself.
Released in November, this new collection also has a CD tucked in a sleeve inside the back cover, with recordings of 36 of the poems performed by their authors and others. Val Gray Ward performs two selections, Margaret Walker's "For My People," and Mari Evans' "I am a Black Woman." Actress, producer and cultural activist, Ward was artistic director of Chicago's Kuumba Theatre before moving to Syracuse with her husband Francis Ward, who teaches at the Newhouse School of Public Communication. Her 2003 CD, "Rhapsody in Hughes 101," is a jazz-backed anthology of Langston Hughes' work, and she also performed two selections for Giovanni's "Hip Hop Speaks to Children" CD.
Giovanni's "The 100 Best African American Poems (But I Cheated)" is available in bookstores and at Amazon.com.