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Grammy Nominee, Best-Selling Author to Read Her Poetry

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March 17, 2008 — Grammy-nominated best-selling author Nikki Giovanni will read her poetry Friday at the Reichhold Center for the Arts.
Giovanni will read from several of her works, including "Ego Tripping," a poem originally published in 1973, and poems from her new book, Acolytes, recently honored by the NAACP with an Image Award for literature. The lecture will be followed by a book signing, and Giovanni's books will be available for purchase. The free event, which begins at 6 p.m., is sponsored by the Alfred O. Heath Distinguished Lecturer Series.
The author's best-known recent work is Rosa, about Rosa Parks, which made it to No. 3 on the New York Times Bestseller List. Rosa also received recognition as a Caldecott Honor Book in 2006. Giovanni has penned more than 30 books, many on black culture. The poet was also nominated for a best spoken word Grammy in the 46th annual Grammy Awards for her album The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection.
Giovanni is a university distinguished professor at Virginia Tech, where she has taught creative writing for more than 20 years. Her advice to aspiring creative writers is to discover the story in the event and to continue asking "What is the story?" as authors develop their work.
Giovanni's work at Virginia Tech brought her in contact with the student responsible for the worst school shooting in U.S. history. She taught Seung-Hui Cho, and asked that he be removed from her class after his behavior caused disruptions.
"This was not a defining moment for Virginia Tech," she says. "It was quite sad."
The school is recovering, Giovanni says: "Tech is moving along. There are too many guns in America … it is a shame."
Giovanni looks forward to her visit to the territory. However, she regrets that this will be a brief visit, saying she "is sorry I won't have a chance to kick back and enjoy the sun."
The lecture series is funded through the Office of the President of the University of the Virgin Islands.
"It's part of our commitment to engaging the community, but at the same time the series honors Dr. Heath, who has been very active on our board of trustees," says Michelle Smitherman, UVI's manager of Advancement Services and lecture organizer. The lectures have been ongoing for five years and provide the speaker with honorarium and travel expenses.
UVI expects an audience of around 300 people, but booked the 1,200-seat Reichhold Center because attendance at the last two lectures exceeded the capacity of their venues, Smitherman said. Friday's lecture will be videoconferenced simultaneously to the Evans Center Theater on UVI's St. Croix Campus.
For more information on this lecture or the series, call the manager of Advancement Services at 693-1040.
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