Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid by Nikki Giovanni

Review: Chasing Utopia - Nikki Giovanni

Even though I can’t claim a visceral reaction to this book as some poetry has given me, I did enjoy it quite a bit. Giovanni has a way of looking at things and people that I had never considered and I love all her expressions of this in the book. As an avid reader, I can recognize the need for art but not express it quite the way she does when refuting the uselessness of the grasshopper in the old fable. After the last few poets that I had read, I expected to have more feelings than thoughts by the end of this book, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.

While feeling can be the focus of some poets, I do enjoy this more intellectual style as well. Giovanni would be a perfect poet for schools to take a closer look at. My favorites were poems that covered historic events, like When God Made Mountains. It’s actually about run away slaves and brings to mind what their experience of running away may have been like. Of course, we can read a whole book on it or we can take some time to appreciate the feelings, which is more of poetry’s job. That said, one of the things I feel like I missed in my coverage of poetry in school was the idea that poetry can be thought provoking, such as this.

I also really love the way she talks about food. Not only does Giovanni get into the deliciousness of the food in some poems, but the way it brings us together, and sometimes what it represents. Maybe that’s just my inner fat kid, though. I love and am terrified by the idea of the frontier pot.

The book is listed as a hybrid because it pairs poems with portions of personal narrative or maybe essays might be a better descriptor. It doesn’t tell Giovanni’s story or journey in a way that would be normally recognizable as a memoir, but its not exactly a memoir either. Its kind of a memoir of growing into a poet so there are large pieces of time missing that are filled with poetry and she mainly talks about people along her way. But some of non-poems weren’t essays or personal story either. Some were short stories or streams of consciousness.

Altogether its an interesting book but not o,e that I would recommend for someone looking for that memoir feel. That said, I would definitely recommend it for anyone into literature or looking for poetry.

I borrowed the book from the library but its also available for purchase, click on the cover image to find worldwide options from Booklikes or add to Goodreads for later.

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