I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a writer. I mean really be a writer. Especially during that period of perhaps infinite time beween when you declare you are a writer and the rest of the world concedes that it is true. There is a transitional period, a hazing of sorts, where one dabbles. Like a swimmer from the city. You've come to the lake, you like the scenery, you have on your suit, you want to go in, you've been planning to do this for a long time, you know inside of you somewhere is the instinctual skill to at least keep yourself from drowning if you were to dive in, and you even have the gumption to feel that, if the circumstances were just so, you could traverse these waters with the grace of the little minnows therein. But, for quite awhile you stand ashore. You dabble. Sticking your toes in. Checking out the effect of your little experimental ripples. Looking around to see if you can enter the waters unobserved. That was me.
I finally took the dive in just recently. Decided I didn't need to wait for the rest of the world. That led me to thinking about what kind of writer I want to be. What is the shape or form of a mature woman writer. One that I would care to be.
Last night I got my answer. I went to see/ hear Nikki Giovanni speak at my alma mater, UNH as part of an annual celebration for Reverend King. No quiet, low key poetry reading of soft and soothing verse. Giovanni is a truth teller first and foremost. I have always been that. What I have lacked, and what Giovanni does not, is the kahunas to share her truth, to state it unequivocally, unashamedly, and without hesitation or back pedalling. When she slammed President Obama last night I was a bit stunned and saddened, but also impressed. It took courage. To be a real truth teller takes great courage.
For Nikki G. (and me)
Cowards crowd the shore,
may even look tough
kicking sand on each other
flexing perfect forms,
writers jump in
sink or swim.
Here is a link to Goivanni's website, and a view of a reading similar to what I heard last night.