Study Guide

A Poem for My Librarian, Mrs. Long Admiration

By Nikki Giovanni

Admiration

[...] but when I listened
Late at night with my portable (that I was so proud of)
Tucked under my pillow
I heard nat king cole and matt dennis, june christy and ella fitzgerald
And sometimes sarah Vaughan sing black coffee (10-14)

Admiration isn't reserved just for Mrs. Long. It's clear that Giovanni feels happy nostalgia for those simple days when she could curl up with her most prized possession and listen to those crooners who would define her youth—sounds perfect to us.

When I wanted Leaves of Grass or alfred north whitehead
She would go to the big library uptown and I now know
Hat in hand to ask to borrow so that I might borrow (28-30)

Mrs. Long risked a lot to give the precocious Miss Giovanni the opportunity to explore intellectually. She doesn't say it outright, but if you read between the lines, you can see that Giovanni honors the patience and perseverance of Mrs. Long—and maybe cringes at how often she went on such humiliating trips to meet her requests.

But she nonetheless brought the books
Back (33-34)

Despite the rudeness that Mrs. Long must have encountered at the big library uptown, she always accomplished her missions. This is only a line and some extra, but if you read carefully, there is a wealth of admiration for Mrs. Long's courage and dedication.

But there was a world
Somewhere
Out there
And Mrs. Long opened that wardrobe (43-46)

This is a loaded few lines. Yes, Mrs. Long opened the metaphorical door to a world larger than Giovanni's neighborhood in Knoxville. And yes, that door led to better things. But the bigger world is also less safe. Still, Giovanni's last stanza has a tone of admiration for the woman who could do all of this just by caring and doing her job—and for showing her that the benefits of striving usually outweigh the risks.

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