Brain Pickings Icon
Brain Pickings

I Am Loved: Nikki Giovanni’s Poems for Kids, Selected and Illustrated by Beloved 94-Year-Old Artist Ashley Bryan

A vibrant ode to the inherent poetry of existence.

I Am Loved: Nikki Giovanni’s Poems for Kids, Selected and Illustrated by Beloved 94-Year-Old Artist Ashley Bryan

It is often said that we are born scientists — naturally curious, tickled rather than daunted by the unknown, unafraid to experiment and to stumble in learning the world. Broadening the common ground between science and poetry is the awareness that we are equally born poets — children rejoice in the sandbox of language, where word and image are castled into wild possibilities of meaning, their minds sculpted by the magic of metaphor.

In the tradition of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s illustrated poems for young people, Maya Angelou’s courageous children’s verses illustrated by Basquiat, and T.S. Eliot’s classic cat poems illustrated by Edward Gorey, now comes I Am Loved (public library) — a lovely set of poems by Nikki Giovanni (b. June 7, 1943), one of the great poets of our time, illustrated by the prolific ninety-four-year-old artist, storyteller, and humanitarian Ashley Bryan (b. July 13, 1923).

Animated by his lifelong ardor for poetry, Bryan selected a dozen of Giovanni’s poems to bring to life in his unmistakable style — artwork vibrant and irrepressibly alive, radiating the native poetry of existence. Here he is reciting the Langston Hughes poem that ignited and continues to stoke his love of poetry:


Art by Ashley Bryan for I Am Loved by Nikki Giovanni

A SONG FOR BLACKBIRD
by Nikki Giovanni

(for Carolyn Rodgers, October 4, 2010)

We look for words:
    intelligent    intense
    chocolate    warm
    ambitious    cautious

to describe a person

We design monuments:
    the Pyramids    the Taj Mahal
    the Lincoln Memorial    the Empire State Building
    the Wrigley Building    Coffins

to say someone was loved

We sing a sad blue
    Song
We sing a river — no — bridge
    Song
We sing a Song of a Blackbird
    To Say

You will be missed.

Art by Ashley Bryan for I Am Loved by Nikki Giovanni

BECAUSE
by Nikki Giovanni

I wrote a poem
for you because
you are
my little boy

I wrote a poem
for you because
you are
my darling daughter

and in this poem
I sang a song
that says
as time goes on
I am you
and you are me
and that’s how life
goes on

Art by Ashley Bryan for I Am Loved by Nikki Giovanni

KIDNAP POEM
by Nikki Giovanni

ever been kidnapped
by a poet
if i were a poet
i’d kidnap you
put you in my phrases and meter
you to jones beach
or maybe coney island
or maybe just to my house
lyric you in lilacs
dash you in the rain
blend into the beach
to complement my see
play the lyre for you
ode you with my love song
anything to win you
wrap you in red Black green
show you off to mama
yeah if i were a poet i’d kid
nap you

Art by Ashley Bryan for I Am Loved by Nikki Giovanni

NO HEAVEN
by Nikki Giovanni

How can there be
No heaven
When rain falls
gently on the grass
When sunshine scampers
across my toes

When corn bakes
into bread
When wheat melts
into cake

When shadows
cool
And owls
call
And little finches
eat upside
down

How can there be
No Heaven

When tears comfort
When dreams caress
When you smile
  at me

Complement the immeasurably wonderful I Am Loved with this illustrated collection of classic love poems, then revisit Nikki Giovanni on love, her poems celebrating libraries and librarians, and her fantastic forgotten conversation with James Baldwin.


Published February 5, 2018

https://www.brainpickings.org/2018/02/05/i-am-loved-nikki-giovannis-ashley-bryan/

BP

www.brainpickings.org

BP

PRINT ARTICLE

Filed Under

View Full Site

Brain Pickings participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. In more human terms, this means that whenever you buy a book on Amazon from a link on here, I get a small percentage of its price. That helps support Brain Pickings by offsetting a fraction of what it takes to maintain the site, and is very much appreciated