One Last Word: Nikki Grimes's 2017 BGHB Poetry & Fiction Honor Speech

One Last Word is a love letter from me to the poets of the Harlem Renaissance, and from those poets to a new generation of readers.

I was born in Harlem, gave my first poetry reading at Countee Cullen Library in Harlem, and have stepped into the continuum of poets nourished by that community. In other words, I feel very much connected to those poets. It seems only natural, now, that I should use my poetry as a way to explore theirs. The timing seemed right. The themes of struggle, the need to self-identify, the importance of claiming one’s own destiny, the virus of social injustice, and the resolve to resist certainly resonate today.

Young readers are desperate for words of hope, encouragement, wisdom, and strength in the face of today’s challenges. The poets of the Harlem Renaissance had that to offer, in spades. And so, using the Golden Shovel poetry form, I’ve taken what they had to offer, and I’ve run with it.

From the January/February 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more on the 2017 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB17. Read Nikki Grimes's 2017 Wilder Medal Acceptance: "A Lifeline Called Hope" and Junko Yokota's profile: "To Know Nikki Grimes Is to Know an Artist."

Nikki Grimes

Nikki Grimes has received the ALAN Award, Children’s Literature Legacy Award, CSK-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, and NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, among others. Her memoir Ordinary Hazards (Wordsong/Boyds Mills & Kane) was a Printz, Sibert, and Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book.

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