The Power of Listening to Nikki Giovanni’s ‘Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day’
Hearing her words, and her voice, makes the resonance that much deeper and the storytelling that much richer
Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day is my favorite collection of poetry by Nikki Giovanni. It’s been about 13 years since I was first introduced to it, falling deeply in love with the titular poem. I still cling to “Habits,” “Woman,” “Introspection,” and “Crutches,” which deftly declares:
emotional falls always are
and there are no crutches
to swing back on
Each time I read and reread a poem from Giovanni’s 36-piece collection of truth-telling, it opens me up a little more.
Nearly four months ago, I returned to Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day. Not by text but by audio. I stumbled upon the album, released by Folkways Records in 1978, on Spotify. I started streaming Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day during my long walks in my neighborhood, and it quickly became the walking meditation I didn’t know I needed. (When I’m not zen-ing out with jellyfish.)
Reading poetry is a gift. Listening to it heightens the experience. The words come alive with every syllable, breath, and lilt. With each listen of Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, the verses hit me a little harder than they did before, make me think a little more, carry me further into wonderment.
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Simply hearing Giovanni’s rhythm and rhyme in the lovers’ poem “That Day” through my headphones is delightful. The patterns and flow. The stuff that makes me miss live poetry slams at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and readings at the Schomburg Center in the pre-Covid era.
Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day isn’t the only album of poetry I listen to. I have a modest vinyl record collection that includes Giovanni’s Truth Is on Its Way, an album of poetry she performed with a gospel backdrop in collaboration with the New York Community Choir. It includes treasures like “Ego Tripping” and “Nikki Rosa.“…