Poetry Friday–Celebrating Nikki Grimes!


Happy Poetry Friday!

I’m happy to be part of the Poetry Friday celebration of awarding winning author, poet, and artist Nikki Grimes! I’ve read a handful of Nikki’s 75 + books and have many more waiting for me. What comes to mind when I think about her and her writing is her honesty and integrity to what she’s writing and creating. Although she claims that she was an introvert, she has throughout her writing career shared her writing, poetry, and process, via lectures, workshops, school visits, blog visits, and conferences in the US and around the world. Thanks for giving so much to all of us!

Thanks to Irene Latham who ignited the idea to honor Nikki Grimes, within and beyond the Poetry Friday Community, and who is also hosting this weeks roundup at her blog Live Your Poem!

Thinking about where to start this celebration of Nikki almost leaves me overwhelmed, for her full bodied spirit alone won’t fit within this post. How about beginning by visiting her own blog, Nikki Grimes The Poetry Zone, where you will find a cornucopia about Nikki, her writing, books, intriguing videos, and much more… Be sure to listen to her recent interview on Sree Sreenivasan’s  “@Sree’s Daily Covid19 Show #46: Poetry Night, in celebration of National Poetry Month,” 2020. Here she offers writers and poets who influenced her–most prominent being James Baldwin; how she serendipitously became specifically a children’s author/poet; how she’s coping in the current pandemic; and in addition she read many of her poems.

You can also find four different interviews of Nikki at Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’ blog Today’s Little Ditty. One includes a review of Nikki’s recent picture book, BOOK LOVE, on  Book Love: SOUTHWEST SUNRISE, May 7, 2020. A second includes an interview and shared mentor poems from her book’s BRONX MASQUERADE and BETWEEN THE LINES, on Classroom Connection with Nikki Grimes post, March 2, 2018.

Ordinary Hazards

Stop by Wordsong/Boyds Mills & Kane website for a review and video of Nikki’s new book ORDINARY HAZARDS A MEMOIR. I’ve chosen to share a poem from this book, which has received numerous awards and starred reviews including a Michael L. Printz Honor Book, a  Robert F. Sibert Honor Book, and starred reviews from The Horn Book, School Library Connection, Booklist, Shelf Awareness, Publishers Weekly, and BCCB.  Ordinary Hazards is, in her own words, her own story of darkness and light. A compelling piece of verse writing from her early beginning, of being tucked into a dresser drawer while living with her schizophrenic mother, and loved but absent father. Being shuffled from one foster home to another, and finding solace in writing at the early age of six.  How timely that her book has come to us during the corona virus, and how fortunate that she also offers us light, when all the world seeks it.


My father fed me
Invisible Man,
Native Son,
No Longer at Ease,
Black man’s Burden,
and the more I read,
the madder I got,
and I already
had reason
to scream,
but my father
kept me dreaming
of what words
I might bring
to the world.

© 2020 Nikki Grimes. All rights reserved.

With permission of Wordsong/Boyds Mills & Kane

Roses for Nikki, as she grows them and loves them…

1-Yellow rose of winter-2-13-2018 copy

Yellow Roses, © 2019 Michelle Kogan, pen and watercolor.

I’ve taken a line from Nikki’s poem MY BLACK ME, and wrote a golden shovel reflecting on our times, the protests going on, and the too many lives that have been lost. Thanks for your line Nikki!


Understand systemic racism, and say No
to Black and Brown inequality. Let it no Longer
linger, festering all aspects of life At
all levels. Begin Change now, turn pain into Ease.

© 2020 Michelle Kogan

More roses and a garden image, for Nikki’s a gardener too…

1a- Foster beach roses 10-24-2019Untitled_Panorama1 copy

Foster Beach Roses, © 2019 Michelle Kogan,  watercolor and watercolor pencil.


Victory garden -6-11-2020

Veggie Seedlings, © 2020 Michelle Kogan, pen and watercolor.

Visit Renée LaTulippe’s site No Water River to find out more about what Poetry Friday is.



About Michelle Kogan Art, Illustration, & Writing

Michelle Kogan is an artist, illustrator, instructor, and writer, creating colorful allegorical figure, flora and fauna paintings and children's illustrations, which have a sensitivity to endangered species, and the environment. She is an art instructor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Evanston Art Center and offers Plein Air Painting Workshops at nature venues in the Chicago area including the Lincoln Park Conservatory, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and Lurie Gardens at Millennium Park. Visit her online Etsy Shop at: http://www.MichelleKoganFineArt.etsy.com and her website: http://www.michellekogan.com
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12 Responses to Poetry Friday–Celebrating Nikki Grimes!

  1. Mitchell Linda says:

    What a wonderful post. My OLW for 2020 is at-ease….so its opposite grabs my attention. This time that we are living in is certainly one of un-ease. I want to be part of the change…a bigger part than I have thought I’ve been. And, the painted roses are a perfect touch.
    Heads up that I’m making a move to leave facebook for at least a good, long break. If you ever want to reach me, mitchell.hubeimom@gmail.com will be the best way.

  2. cvarsalona says:

    Michelle, you provided me with more links to explore so thank you for that. Your gift of artwork to celebrate Nikki is truly amazing today. I especially like the beach roses. Last week while walking the boardwalk, I saw a tiny bunch of bright flowers growing among the seagrass. It was so delightful and now you shared yours. It will be a reminder of my friend the artist-poet. In your golden shovel, your mantra, Begin Change now, turn pain into Ease, is one to live by.

  3. margaretsmn says:

    You built a wonderful post to honor Nikki Grimes. I love her memoir and have read it and listened to it. The poem you chose to share alongside your golden shovel is a reflection of how African Americans begin their lives with the influences of racism. It saddens me that they grow up protecting themselves from it. We should have changed this long ago. I am with you in the mantra “Turn pain to ease.”
    I love that you gave Nikki a garden in your post. She will love that.

  4. How thoughtful of you to bring your flower-art to Nikki! Beautiful! And your Golden Shovel… YES. You are a light shining Nikki’s light today. Thank you .xo

  5. lindabaie says:

    With more links to check on, I beleive this is going to be quite a wonderful weekend of reading & listening to Nikki, Michelle. I just finished Ordinary Hazards, a book that tells us all how Nikki fought so hard to be herself, to write no matter the challenges, a beautiful thing. Your golden shovel reflects all hopes that we “turn pain into Ease”. I’m sure Nikki will love your flowers, as I do. Thanks!

  6. janicescully says:

    Yes, thank you for these links. Her link with James Baldwin fascinates me, how she came to meet him and how he mentored her. Such a story! And thank you for your flowers.

  7. jama says:

    Beautiful post, Michelle! Thanks so much for sharing that sample poem from Ordinary Hazards, which I’m looking forward to reading this summer. Enjoyed your golden shovel, and your rose watercolors are perfection!!

  8. I look forward to reading Ordinary Hazards, more so after reading the poem you’ve included and the golden shovel it inspired. And I love your yellow rose painting. 🙂

  9. You are so right that Nikki’s words offer us light when the world needs it–thanks for your beautiful post.

  10. maryleehahn says:

    I need to read James Baldwin. Thanks to you and to Nikki for the nudge.
    Beautiful post, as always — both the words and the paintings!

  11. Oh, those last four lines of Nikki’s poem…and then the words YOU brought into the world, too. Love!

  12. haitiruth says:

    What a beautiful post! Thank you, Michelle! Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

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