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From one of America’s most celebrated poets, Nikki Giovanni, comes this poignant collection of poetry that celebrates the simple pleasures of everyday life and the bonds we share with those closest to us. “This slim volume delights on every page. There are stories, imaginings, whimsy, and startling images which prove the poet’s power and her command of language . . . Anyone From one of America’s most celebrated poets, Nikki Giovanni, comes this poignant collection of poetry that celebrates the simple pleasures of everyday life and the bonds we share with those closest to us. “This slim volume delights on every page. There are stories, imaginings, whimsy, and startling images which prove the poet’s power and her command of language . . . Anyone with a love of language will be delighted with this book and the continuing publication of America’s treasured poet.”—San Francisco Book Review The poetry of Nikki Giovanni has spurred movements and inspired songs, turned hearts and informed generations. She's been hailed as a healer and as a national treasure. But Giovanni's heart resides in the everyday, where family and lovers gather, friends commune, and those no longer with us are remembered. And at every gathering there is food—food as sustenance, food as aphrodisiac, food as memory. A pot of beans is flavored with her mother's sighs—this sigh part cardamom, that one the essence of clove; a lover requests a banquet as an affirmation of ongoing passion; homage is paid to the most time-honored appetizer: soup. With Chasing Utopia, Giovanni demands that the prosaic—flowers, birdsong, winter—be seen as poetic, and reaffirms once again why she is as energetic, "remarkable" (Gwendolyn Brooks), "wonderful" (Marian Wright Edelman),"outspoken, prolific, energetic" (New York Times), and relevant as ever.  


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From one of America’s most celebrated poets, Nikki Giovanni, comes this poignant collection of poetry that celebrates the simple pleasures of everyday life and the bonds we share with those closest to us. “This slim volume delights on every page. There are stories, imaginings, whimsy, and startling images which prove the poet’s power and her command of language . . . Anyone From one of America’s most celebrated poets, Nikki Giovanni, comes this poignant collection of poetry that celebrates the simple pleasures of everyday life and the bonds we share with those closest to us. “This slim volume delights on every page. There are stories, imaginings, whimsy, and startling images which prove the poet’s power and her command of language . . . Anyone with a love of language will be delighted with this book and the continuing publication of America’s treasured poet.”—San Francisco Book Review The poetry of Nikki Giovanni has spurred movements and inspired songs, turned hearts and informed generations. She's been hailed as a healer and as a national treasure. But Giovanni's heart resides in the everyday, where family and lovers gather, friends commune, and those no longer with us are remembered. And at every gathering there is food—food as sustenance, food as aphrodisiac, food as memory. A pot of beans is flavored with her mother's sighs—this sigh part cardamom, that one the essence of clove; a lover requests a banquet as an affirmation of ongoing passion; homage is paid to the most time-honored appetizer: soup. With Chasing Utopia, Giovanni demands that the prosaic—flowers, birdsong, winter—be seen as poetic, and reaffirms once again why she is as energetic, "remarkable" (Gwendolyn Brooks), "wonderful" (Marian Wright Edelman),"outspoken, prolific, energetic" (New York Times), and relevant as ever.  

30 review for Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bri

    4.5 stars Every piece was like a conversation with Ms. Giovanni. Warm and knowing and full of care. Her poetry is so accessible. I hope to meet her one day.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    Many of these poems and essays are more peaceful than Nikki's previous works that I'm familiar with, coming to her work as did much of the country, after the Virginia Tech massacre. Chasing Utopia (which opens with beer don't you know,) has more food, and down home, and weather, and family. Other poets, friends, washing dishes for a quarter, the right way to cook your biscuits. There's still some righteous anger, and "these are our heroes," because let's never forget who Nikki Giovanni is, she i Many of these poems and essays are more peaceful than Nikki's previous works that I'm familiar with, coming to her work as did much of the country, after the Virginia Tech massacre. Chasing Utopia (which opens with beer don't you know,) has more food, and down home, and weather, and family. Other poets, friends, washing dishes for a quarter, the right way to cook your biscuits. There's still some righteous anger, and "these are our heroes," because let's never forget who Nikki Giovanni is, she is a Poet-Activist with a capital P, and a capital A, when she's not being that she's a Poet-Human same rules apply to the capitals Mystery Black Woman Mother Professor (Distinguished) and she's over 600 years old look it up and Poet is garlic and her words are going to drill their way right down into your soul and your heart, and maybe your belly too because she'll tell you the truth if you let her. And let the poems flow From tears of laughter From sweat of work From the deliciousness of tomorrow To the knowledge of Today

  3. 4 out of 5

    Valerie O'Brien

    I LOVED every word of this book. Giovanni delivers an AMAZING collection of short stories and poems that will warm your spirit, make you laugh, and possibly shed tears. I did.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Nikki Giovanni's latest work is as lovely and striking as her work Bicycles. Giovanni's agility, grace, and playfulness with words delight, surprise, and yet also strike familiar chords within the reader. Given the opportunity, I would most happily share an afternoon of good conversation and coffee with Ms. Giovanni, but short of this her works are a good substitute. Well done, Ms. Giovanni. And, thank you. Nikki Giovanni's latest work is as lovely and striking as her work Bicycles. Giovanni's agility, grace, and playfulness with words delight, surprise, and yet also strike familiar chords within the reader. Given the opportunity, I would most happily share an afternoon of good conversation and coffee with Ms. Giovanni, but short of this her works are a good substitute. Well done, Ms. Giovanni. And, thank you.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Che

    "No matter what they call it today, tomorrow they will call it Genius. Tomorrow they will teach classes about it; write books about it; give lectures on it. Folk will be awarded tenure for explaining why this line goes that way though of course only you and I know why. The artist felt it. The artist was true to herself; true to himself." Thank you for being true to yourself, Nikki. "No matter what they call it today, tomorrow they will call it Genius. Tomorrow they will teach classes about it; write books about it; give lectures on it. Folk will be awarded tenure for explaining why this line goes that way though of course only you and I know why. The artist felt it. The artist was true to herself; true to himself." Thank you for being true to yourself, Nikki.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Allie

    Lovely prose and accessible poetry combined in this delightful volume. And Giovanni is a local author! If this pandemic ever ends and I ever leave the house again for things that are not constant doctors' appointments, maybe I will run into Giovanni at Target or wherever and I will be so excited that I can't decide if I would be chill or fangirl all over her. (Based on how she reacted to meeting Nina Simone, inviting her to a party she was throwing because famous people probably don't get invite Lovely prose and accessible poetry combined in this delightful volume. And Giovanni is a local author! If this pandemic ever ends and I ever leave the house again for things that are not constant doctors' appointments, maybe I will run into Giovanni at Target or wherever and I will be so excited that I can't decide if I would be chill or fangirl all over her. (Based on how she reacted to meeting Nina Simone, inviting her to a party she was throwing because famous people probably don't get invited places by normal people, I have to assume that she wouldn't mind being approached.) Pieces that resonated with me: - In Defense of Flowers - the first time I've thought about the statement "in lieu of flowers" and recognizing that beauty for beauty's sake is worthwhile - When My Phone Trembles - about the jolt of fear when you receive a late-night phone call - Allowables - because of the way it parallels a mundane occurrence (killing a spider) with violence against others (making me think about state/police violence against black bodies; though this collection came out in 2013) - Our Job Safety is Your Priority with Coffee - for the peek into Giovanni's editing process when it comes to poetry, and because I love her coffee poem: Vitamin C prevents Colds A and D do sunshine Things We need Calcium For strong bones And There must be something For the eyes Carrots, Cabbage, Lettuce You never saw A blind rabbit And I have a friend Who thinks Salmon Will prevent A loss of your mind But I believe In Coffee Drip Percolated Pressed Coffee Black, not sweet No cream Coffee Which smells like morning And feels like friendship Coffee While we laugh And preview Our day - I Give Easily - because yo, it's hard to let people love you by helping you, even when you need it - The Scared and the Vulnerable - because in a more peaceful way, Giovanni's poem reminded me of the Niemöller "First they came..." poem about the Holocaust. 100% worth checking out her work.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jherane Patmore

    Idk what I was expecting when I picked up this book, but it wasn't musings on coffee, Sisyphus, soups, poetry, and beer. It's a comforting and cozy read. Idk what I was expecting when I picked up this book, but it wasn't musings on coffee, Sisyphus, soups, poetry, and beer. It's a comforting and cozy read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    NaTaya Hastings

    *I won this through First Reads Giveaways* You know, I had initially rated this book four stars, but then I had to go back and give it five stars. This book of poetry (and essays) is just... it is simply amazing. Giovanni writes beautifully; her pen aims straight for the heart. Her poems, seemingly about everyday things and occurrences, say so much more than what is actually on the page. These poems celebrate the simplicity of every day living and the complexity of life all at once. The essays ar *I won this through First Reads Giveaways* You know, I had initially rated this book four stars, but then I had to go back and give it five stars. This book of poetry (and essays) is just... it is simply amazing. Giovanni writes beautifully; her pen aims straight for the heart. Her poems, seemingly about everyday things and occurrences, say so much more than what is actually on the page. These poems celebrate the simplicity of every day living and the complexity of life all at once. The essays are great, too, but my real love affair is with the poems. This book contains poems such as "These Women," "I Wish I Could Live (in a Book)," "I Wish I Could Live (in Music)," and "Spider Waltz." These poems celebrate womanhood and love and heartbreak and family, most of all, family. I recommend this book to everyone -- EVERYONE. I believe that even people who don't enjoy poetry could enjoy this poetry.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nadine Jones

    The poems and essays in this book didn’t really work for me. Too much frosting, not enough cupcake. one of my favorites: Thirst At 2:30 or maybe 3:00 a.m. I have tossed And turned all I can: I'm thirsty But if I get up to drink I'll have to Get up again To go to the bathroom Thirst wins Stumbling into my house Shoes I got to the kitchen To find the lemonade My mother Were she still here Would complain: You don't drink enough water. Adam's Ale is the best thing But I don't like water I, like most Americ The poems and essays in this book didn’t really work for me. Too much frosting, not enough cupcake. one of my favorites: Thirst At 2:30 or maybe 3:00 a.m. I have tossed And turned all I can: I'm thirsty But if I get up to drink I'll have to Get up again To go to the bathroom Thirst wins Stumbling into my house Shoes I got to the kitchen To find the lemonade My mother Were she still here Would complain: You don't drink enough water. Adam's Ale is the best thing But I don't like water I, like most Americans, Take my water With sugar or fruit juices Or any disguise I can find Leaning over the sink With a bit of real lemonade dripping down My chin I feel the coolness Float into my lungs And that blessed relief That says Thirst Has been satisfied Feeling myself once again in bloom I smile Return to my bed And await my next Adventure.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Denise Billings

    Each poem, each essay is a nugget to savor, to smile about, to think about. I related to so much of Nikki's life. Driving the VW, the "sick and shut-in", the love, calling her mother "Mommy", the giggles, sleeping, the debates with Grandpapa. I found myself nodding and "um hm-ing" as if I were in a conversation with her. Each poem, each essay is a nugget to savor, to smile about, to think about. I related to so much of Nikki's life. Driving the VW, the "sick and shut-in", the love, calling her mother "Mommy", the giggles, sleeping, the debates with Grandpapa. I found myself nodding and "um hm-ing" as if I were in a conversation with her.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Nikki Giovanni is one of my favorite poets. The poetry in this collection has the same personal, conversational tone I'm used to. Poems about love, childhood, politics, black identity, loss. What I especially loved about this book was the mix of poems and short essays. To get more of a glimpse of the person who wrote the verse you love is a delight. Nikki Giovanni is one of my favorite poets. The poetry in this collection has the same personal, conversational tone I'm used to. Poems about love, childhood, politics, black identity, loss. What I especially loved about this book was the mix of poems and short essays. To get more of a glimpse of the person who wrote the verse you love is a delight.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    I feel like I probably ought to have liked this book better but I just didn't connect with it. There was something about the tone which I liked, the ease of it, the familiar nature. Like sitting around my grandma's dining table. Familiar, comfortable. And some of the poems did hit me hard, like "Allowables." Mostly it wasn't to my taste, though. I feel like I probably ought to have liked this book better but I just didn't connect with it. There was something about the tone which I liked, the ease of it, the familiar nature. Like sitting around my grandma's dining table. Familiar, comfortable. And some of the poems did hit me hard, like "Allowables." Mostly it wasn't to my taste, though.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Cristiani

    I got this book signed by Nikki herself this past week...my mother used to read me her poems when I was a little girl. She was like an Auntie in our family, one of my mom's idols and kindred spirits. Her writing is heroic, honest, confident, and for me was always revelatory. I got this book signed by Nikki herself this past week...my mother used to read me her poems when I was a little girl. She was like an Auntie in our family, one of my mom's idols and kindred spirits. Her writing is heroic, honest, confident, and for me was always revelatory.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mo Franklin

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I must preface this review with saying that, as an aspiring writer and poetry lover, I personally revere Nikki Giovanni as one of the most phenomenal and prolific poets of my lifetime. Indeed, she is a natural treasure whose writing stoked my passion for poetry decades ago. And while this is not my most favorite of her collections, it is a remarkable and noteworthy collection. I found this collection of poetry and essays to be more personal than some of her other writing. Nikki writes here about I must preface this review with saying that, as an aspiring writer and poetry lover, I personally revere Nikki Giovanni as one of the most phenomenal and prolific poets of my lifetime. Indeed, she is a natural treasure whose writing stoked my passion for poetry decades ago. And while this is not my most favorite of her collections, it is a remarkable and noteworthy collection. I found this collection of poetry and essays to be more personal than some of her other writing. Nikki writes here about her personal relationships with family, friends and lovers and about her deep fiery passions for writing, literature, art and music. She touches on love and mourning, experiencing and healing. She intertwines into many of these works how food intersects with relationships particularly with family. Examples given were her grandmother's greens, grits, biscuits and special spice blends and her mother's love for beer and pig feet or her memories of making meals with and for her family. She touches also briefly on her own dealings with violence, family illness and natural disaster. Because I am a bibliophile who also has a deep passion for music and art, my favorite poems in this collection were "I Wish I Could Live (in a Book)," "I Wish I Could Live (in Music)," and "I Wish I Could Live (in a Painting)." And as an aspiring writer, I also enjoyed Nikki's essay on how she edits her own work. If you love poetry and you love Nikki Giovanni, don't miss this one.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    /this book is full of amazing poems. Even when they look like essays, they are really poems at heart. The Lone Ranger Rides the Lonesome Trail Again I watched The Visitor They Like boys shaking salt on slugs Chased Deported Misunderstood The pain Were indifferent to The lives They were destroying They tried to convince Me They were protecting Me Those boys Who explained Why they were throwing Stones at mother robin Breaking her wing And preventing not her flight But her ability to feed Her three little hatchlings Wh /this book is full of amazing poems. Even when they look like essays, they are really poems at heart. The Lone Ranger Rides the Lonesome Trail Again I watched The Visitor They Like boys shaking salt on slugs Chased Deported Misunderstood The pain Were indifferent to The lives They were destroying They tried to convince Me They were protecting Me Those boys Who explained Why they were throwing Stones at mother robin Breaking her wing And preventing not her flight But her ability to feed Her three little hatchlings Who were condemned to death By starvation They laughed in nazi-ese They were only doing Their jobs What pitiful Little gerbils We have Become We live To keep others From living I saw The Visitor Play his drum While Sarah Palin Field-dressed a moose and encouraged her daughter To have sex With her oldest son Sarah was After all Too busy at the PTA Explaining what abstinence means Oh boy What ecstasy I am embraced With lies And hypocrisy Hug me, Baby Do it Good I am an American My life Is a fucking prison Hi Ho, Silver Away!!!!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    Once again, Nikki Giovanni does not disappoint. "Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid" has a mixture of short 1-3 page snippets of Nikki's life, as well as more of her much loved poetry. "Chasing Utopia" has well established commentary of not only her life, but also the world at large. Nikki has a good way of embarking her wisdom as she has grown older, sharing her own personal joys and what brings her utopia, as well as keeping history as real as she can in the form of poetry and prose. She also makes sure Once again, Nikki Giovanni does not disappoint. "Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid" has a mixture of short 1-3 page snippets of Nikki's life, as well as more of her much loved poetry. "Chasing Utopia" has well established commentary of not only her life, but also the world at large. Nikki has a good way of embarking her wisdom as she has grown older, sharing her own personal joys and what brings her utopia, as well as keeping history as real as she can in the form of poetry and prose. She also makes sure to include family anecdotes that I think many people will be able to relate to as a lot of them have to do with food and cooking. A lot of her poems in "Chasing Utopia" use recipes, cooking or the process of eating as a way to relate to people, which makes a lot of sense since humans use food as a way to connect. This is a book I will keep on my shelf for snippets of wisdom, history, warmth and comfort.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mitzi

    "when the girl became a poet she was so happy now she could sing her own song tell tales of her people be a truth giver contribute something beautiful and useful to the world" (from "When the Girl Became a Poet") I feel like this sums up Giovanni's poetry. She is either celebrating life or making us pause for reflection on events and history. Like most poetry I think it is better read aloud. Some of her poetry about the Civil War and current events are particularly memorable. "when the girl became a poet she was so happy now she could sing her own song tell tales of her people be a truth giver contribute something beautiful and useful to the world" (from "When the Girl Became a Poet") I feel like this sums up Giovanni's poetry. She is either celebrating life or making us pause for reflection on events and history. Like most poetry I think it is better read aloud. Some of her poetry about the Civil War and current events are particularly memorable.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Drick

    This collection of poems and a few essays reveals the down to earth, fun loving nature of Nikki Giovanni. I had not read much of Giovanni's work and so did not know what to expect, but I heard an interview with her and found her to be an intriguing person. I was not overly moved by the collection as a whole, although there were some poems that took everyday experiences like thirst or friendship and made it something deeper. I am intrigued to read more of her work before passing judgment. This collection of poems and a few essays reveals the down to earth, fun loving nature of Nikki Giovanni. I had not read much of Giovanni's work and so did not know what to expect, but I heard an interview with her and found her to be an intriguing person. I was not overly moved by the collection as a whole, although there were some poems that took everyday experiences like thirst or friendship and made it something deeper. I am intrigued to read more of her work before passing judgment.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Greta

    Nikki Giovanni writes her poetry with a flair for what is most meaningful in her life. At times very sweet or silly, always heartfelt and seemingly honest. But, listening to her writing rather than reading it quietly to myself was fun at first and a little ho-hum after 95 pages, thus I confess I didn't hear all of it. Nikki Giovanni writes her poetry with a flair for what is most meaningful in her life. At times very sweet or silly, always heartfelt and seemingly honest. But, listening to her writing rather than reading it quietly to myself was fun at first and a little ho-hum after 95 pages, thus I confess I didn't hear all of it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Buchanan

    A beautiful collection of essays and poems, full of whimsy, sincerity, and deep-down love. Giovanni touches on what it means to be a poet, an artist, a compassionate person in a world that increasingly attempts to devalue these things. She saves her highest praise for the things that make life worth the living - art, music, family, flowers, coffee, good food, and big loves. A pleasure to read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Latonya Rochelle

    Nikki Giovanni is a national treasure. Chasing Utopia’s title is a spin on Nikki seeking the most expensive beer on the planet in honor of her departed mother. This cozy collection of poems and short essays is like a nice long conversation with your favorite auntie...while drinking a great glass of Pinot Noir.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas

    Incredibly heartwarming yet profound. Nikki Giovanni touches on a myriad of subjects, all of which develop this book into one that enriches the soul and empowers the mind. I recommend this to anyone. The poems are mostly simple and easy to understand, but Giovanni's style, word choice and lyricism is still profound and poetic. I will totally read this again. Incredibly heartwarming yet profound. Nikki Giovanni touches on a myriad of subjects, all of which develop this book into one that enriches the soul and empowers the mind. I recommend this to anyone. The poems are mostly simple and easy to understand, but Giovanni's style, word choice and lyricism is still profound and poetic. I will totally read this again.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Duffy

    I enjoy Nikki Giovanni's poetry and short essays or stories that are included.... she is someone, I'd like to meet and share a beer with on a porch. Some of her poems come across as soft and simple verse but get right to the heart of a matter -- her approach sometimes appears a soft meander but goes arrow straight. I enjoy Nikki Giovanni's poetry and short essays or stories that are included.... she is someone, I'd like to meet and share a beer with on a porch. Some of her poems come across as soft and simple verse but get right to the heart of a matter -- her approach sometimes appears a soft meander but goes arrow straight.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Engle

    Another delightful collection of "down-home" poetry and prose poems from the pen of the irrepressible Nikki Giovanni (the "utopia" of the title being an expensive and elusive beer) ... easy on the eye and deceptively easy on the intellect ... an American gem ... Another delightful collection of "down-home" poetry and prose poems from the pen of the irrepressible Nikki Giovanni (the "utopia" of the title being an expensive and elusive beer) ... easy on the eye and deceptively easy on the intellect ... an American gem ...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    I completely loved this. I don't really have much to say, but just know it was awesome. I wish I had my own copy because wow now I have soooooo many pictures of lines on my phone and just whole pages. I can't wait to read more from Giovanni!!! I completely loved this. I don't really have much to say, but just know it was awesome. I wish I had my own copy because wow now I have soooooo many pictures of lines on my phone and just whole pages. I can't wait to read more from Giovanni!!!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kee Harah

    I think that this is my favorite book by Nikki Giovanni. I love what inspired it. The flow of the book fast and then it's slow but never too slow. She tells a delicious story with all of the biscuits and syrup. I think that this is my favorite book by Nikki Giovanni. I love what inspired it. The flow of the book fast and then it's slow but never too slow. She tells a delicious story with all of the biscuits and syrup.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    4.5 stars. I am officially a Nikki Giovanni fan.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    Loved the poetry and the prose! Warm and engaging! This book made me want to have a chance to sit down and have a beer with Nikki Giovanni! Maybe some day...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kathie

    This is only my second book of hers...the first was Bicycles. How can I have lived so long before discovering her poetry and prose. I'm hooked. This is only my second book of hers...the first was Bicycles. How can I have lived so long before discovering her poetry and prose. I'm hooked.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Casey Phillips

    I'm a little late to the party, but I loved reading Nikki Giovanni. I'm a little late to the party, but I loved reading Nikki Giovanni.

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