Study Guide

A Poem for My Librarian, Mrs. Long Education

By Nikki Giovanni

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We sat on the front porches watching
The jfg sign go on and off greeting
the neighbors, discussing the political
Situation, congratulating the preacher
On his sermon (3-7)

We have to keep in mind that education takes many forms; it's not just book- or school-learning. Giovanni points out several things that helped to form her into the person she later became. We can see that time spent hanging out and just interacting with her neighbors earns a place in her memory and helps her to define where she comes from.

I heard nat king cole and matt dennis, june christy and ella fitzgerald
And sometimes sarah vaughan sing black coffee
Which I now drink (13-15)

This is another important moment in Giovanni's early "education." Her exposure to great jazz musicians will influence her poetry and form her musical tastes later in life.

There was a bookstore uptown on gay street
Which I visited and inhaled that wonderful odor
Of new books
Even today I read hardcover as a preference paperback only
As a last resort (17-21)

As a coming-of-age piece, this poem points to more than one experience that shapes Giovanni into the person she becomes as an adult. This small experience—learning to love the smell of new books—encourages not only a love for hardback editions, but for the written word as well.

And Mrs. Long opened that wardrobe
But no lions or witches scared me
I went through
Knowing there would be
Spring (46-50)

Aside from the actual knowledge that Mrs. Long placed in Giovanni's hands, she also did something else quite important. Through her actions, Mrs. Long taught her that, despite the ugliness that can be out there in the world, positive things are waiting, too.

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