Bicycles, Nikki Giovanni (2009)

A book of ‘popular’ poetry whose premise is a clumsy metaphor

HarperCollins 9780061726453 Pocket-sized 109pp £16.99

Why does this book have the title it does, one might wonder? True, there is a poem of the same name within its covers, but that is pretty much the only mention of the two-wheeled wonder, save for the opening line of the tome. ‘Bicycles: because love requires trust and balance’.

If poetry has any purpose it is to expose the inner meanings and complexities of life, by exploring language’s deepest resonances. I have ridden dozens of bicycles. I have been in love once or twice, and can see only the most facile parallels between the two.

Giovanni’s verse is not much better. This is from the poem ‘Bicycles’:

Bicycles move
With the flow
Of the earth
Like a cloud
So quiet
In the October sky
Like licking ice cream
From a cone
Like knowing you
Will always
Be there

If that causes you to think anew about bicycles, clouds, ice cream, or your lover, then this book is to be heartily recommended. Fret not, however, if the price looks daunting. Giovanni’s verse is sometimes published in ‘O, The Oprah Magazine’, so you might find it in a dentist’s waiting room near you.

PS Jan 10

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