Three Poems from Nikki Giovanni’s Make Me Rain

It’s always a good day when poet, activist, and professor Nikki Giovanni showers us with the power and wisdom of her words.

I love her latest book, Make Me Rain: Poems and Prose (William Morrow, 2020), which is by turns celebratory, conversational, tender, soul nourishing, and ablaze with fierce conviction. Her heart and refreshing honesty are on display whether the subject is deeply personal or politically controversial. She begins with this lyrical restorative gem:

MAKE ME RAIN

make me rain
turn me into a snowflake

let me rest
on your tongue

make me a piece of ice
so I can cool you

let me be the cloud
that embraces you

or the quilt
that gets you dry

snuggle close
listen to me sing

on the windowsill

make me rain
on you

What a beautiful way to invite us into this collection! As a poet and person, she is wholeheartedly in service of language and its critical role in the healing and nurturing of humanity. Water, which sustains every living thing, is a recurring theme in the book.

The book’s cover is an homage to Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album, recently ranked #1 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

There are other joyous and life affirming poems about family, friends, mentors, and dreams to soothe the spirit. She often uses the quilt metaphor not only as a symbol of comfort and safety, but as a way of stitching together precious memories and illuminating the uncommon strength that comes from unifying diverse elements.

“Pictorial Quilt” by Harriet Powers (1898)
(From Nikki's poem, “Quilts”):

Some folk think
a quilt is leftover
clothes
but we know
it is made up
of loved pieces
we have saved
then sewn
together . . . 

America is a quilt
made up of different
folk
we came together to build
something warm
and good

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