Fisk University began as Fisk Free Colored School, one of several schools founded for freedmen during the Union military occupation of Nashville. Fisk was the first historically black college or university to gain accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the first HBCU to be granted a charter for the establishment of a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. more>>
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - One of America's most honored and respected poets visited students at Hillsboro High School.
Nikki Giovanni, a Knoxville native, was the special guest of the school's journalism team.
Giovanni is the only poet to win the prestigious Carl Sandburg Literary award.
She mesmerized the students as she told stories and recited some of her work.
"When she first came up to the podium, she put down this really big binder and I was like, 'Oh no, this is going to be so boring,'" said one student. "But then all she did was read like a couple of poems and she just talked. And she told like average everyday stories that could have been really boring, but she managed to make them really interesting."
Giovanni is teaching this semester at her alma mater Fisk University.
In addition to speaking to students, she also participated in a press conference that included student journalists.
"Poetry is like religion," Giovanni said during her address. "You know, everybody has the right to interpretations, but you don't have the right to tell other people who don't believe in what you believe that they're going to hell."
One student said it was a challenge to write an article because "we don't really know what to say about her, except, she writes beautifully.
"But it turns out, she would just be talking and everything she said would come out as this amazing quote, and we'd be like, 'let's just type up everything she said, because it's so great,'" said one young journalist.
During the press conference, Giovanni addressed different topics including the deadly mass shootings at Virginia Tech where she is a University Distinguished Professor.
Before the shootings, Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old English major from South Korea, was one of her students. She had him removed from her classroom.
"What he finally did, that was the deal breaker," she said. "He would surreptitiously photograph my students under the desk. It would be like if I had a camera and I got below that seat you're sitting in. That constitutes a rape. That is an impropriety."
Several students were amazed that Giovanni visited their school.
One student said they appreciated her demeanor with the young journalists.
"It was pretty cool that she kind of treated us like we were sort of on the same level," the student said. "Of course, she knows more than we do and has had more life experience. She talked to us like she actually cared about what we were trying to ask her and her answers."
Giovanni will return to Virginia Tech in the spring.
Wednesday, June 19 2013 2:24 PM EDT2013-06-19 18:24:42 GMT
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