Nikki Giovanni Poems


The Subliminal Message of Nikki Giovanni’s “Allowables”

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Poetry has many legs that take readers places and forces them to see things in different perspectives. Nikki Giovanni’s poem “Allowables” articulates subliminal meanings that revolve around the death of a spider. This poem illustrates someone admitting to having killed a spider out of fear and then reflecting on their actions. Nikki Giovanni’s “Allowables” poetically develops the unequivocal theme that humans should be kind and not harm any living thing through the demonstration of various literary elements.

The speaker/narrator of “Allowables” is an anonymous entity using first-person narration to establish a personable, yet relatable connection with audiences. The speaker incorporates repetition of the word “I” by using this pronoun on six separate occasions throughout this 16-line poem. Audiences can assume that a human, either male or female, is the voice of the poem. The forthright first line of the poem, “I killed a spider” (1) evokes a confessional voice of the story. Audiences reading the poem’s first line can make the assumption that the speaker has important information to share surrounding the death of this spider. By admitting the wrong violent act, the speaker can now have peace with their decisions and no longer have to internally struggle – the perfect poetic justice. The speaker’s role in this poem is very significant to the evolution of the poem’s plot.

The insight and information audiences gain towards the spider’s qualities are through the narrator’s characterization using literary devices and techniques such as symbolism, metaphors, imagery, and personification in the poem. Spiders, in an outlook, are a symbolic representation of human fragility and the enticement of evil and the narrator supports this idea in the poem. The speaker affirms readers that the spider is not a “murderous brown recluse” (2) or “black widow (3). The poem’s spider, among other diverse spiders, references diversity as a metaphor that all living things should live symbiotically with one another. Mentioning different species of spiders alludes to the poem’s theme that humans should not harm others, no matter who/what they are; diversity is something to embrace, not something to fear. Imagery and personification are later incorporated in the poem’s plot when audiences learn the spider was, “only a small / Sort of papery spider” (5-6). Visual images such as these explicate the spider’s vulnerability. This small spider is described as “papery” which possesses the etymology of being thin, flimsy, weak, or vulnerable (OED). When audiences are reminded of the spider’s weakness, it generates an empathetic tone for the spider’s unfortunate death. Finally, the speaker of the poem declares the spider’s sex to be female through the incorporation of gender pronouns “she” and “her” on lines 9-11. Since the spider is a female, this characterization further illustrates the spider’s prejudicial weakness. Therefore, the spider’s vulnerability demonstrates to audiences that the spider was an unwilling and undeserving victim of the narrator’s violence.

Tone and rhythm both play a significant role in constructing the audience’s attitude towards the poem’s main subject matter. There is no specific meter, rhyme, or form in this free-verse poem. The first stanza starts fast and long (11 lines). This stanza begins with the confession, “I killed a spider” (1) and ends with another revelation, “And I smashed her” (11) which indicate a violent-feeling to the first stanza based on the actions verbs of “killed” and “smashed”. This stanza really displays the narrator’s external actions. Yet, after the eleventh line, there is a line break that indicates a shift in tone from violent to fearful. The rhythm is also impacted by the speaker’s decision to break up the poem into multiple stanzas. From lines 12 – 16, there are 3 separate line breaks emphasizing the speaker’s realization of their actions. Line 13 states, “I don’t think” and line 16 says, “Frightened” which are both clearly more emotion-based verbs than action-based verbs. Lines 13-16 act as one unit, one main idea that results in developing the rest of the theme for “Allowables”; not harming one another based on fear. The speaker believes that they should not kill something based solely out of fear when they say, “I don’t think / I’m allowed // To kill something // Because I am // Frightened” (12-16). This section of the poem rebukes what the audience read on lines 1-11. These lines, now, are more spaced out and broken up to reveal and reflect on the speaker’s internal actions of fear. Just like in everyday life, “Allowables” resembles instances where people act first and think second instead of the opposite.

Nikki Giovanni’s poem incorporates various elements of irony that reflect the poem’s overall message. To start, the title “Allowables” means “worthy of praise; praiseworthy, laudable.” (OED). Yet, the speaker is not praising their actions, but contemplating them instead. The speaker wants death-by-fear to not be allowable. This makes for an ironic title for a piece centered mainly on retrospection. “Allowables” ironic title could be seen as a commentary, or maybe even a mockery of human’s behavior of doing one thing, but saying another. Meanwhile, there is another instance where irony is thrust into the poem for effect. When the narrator, “picked up the book,” to smash the spider, the book acts as an ironic symbol of human wisdom (8). This wisdom the speaker held in their hands was the knowledge that humans should not kill/harm something based off fear. The irony in “Allowables” is not by coincidence, but by consciousness.

The literary elements present in “Allowables” promote the mindset to not harm other beings/things, especially when fear gets in the way of rationality. While spiders can evoke fear, audiences must remind themselves that spiders, like all living things, do not deserve harm. The poem “Allowables” serves as a daily reminder to anyone that poetry, kindness, and emotional cautiousness can take someone farther than their own two legs can.

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A Theme Of Racism In Nikki Giovanni’s Poetry

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Poetry is a way of expressing many emotions in a short amount of words. The poems are mostly about strong emotions in society and everyone lives. Past generations have grown up with a cruel society. Events have occurred that too innocent of eyes have experienced. The lives of racism may not as often occurs, but it is in spirit. Racism lives on as elders tell their experiences through their culture and the equality they believe was absent. Nikki Giovanni’s, poems “Ego-Tripping’, “Nikki-Rosa’, and “Black History Month’; her poems show the racism and inequality among mankind for their culture.

As a young girl, experiencing racism gave Nikki Giovanni a different perspective on life. Not only was it a vexatious task as a young black girl, but she was poor as well. Although she was poor, to one of her most famous poems, “I really hope no white person ever has cause to write about me because they will never understand black love is black wealth and they’ll most likely observe about my childhood and never understand that all whereas I was quite happy”. This quote represented that even though people may have viewed their culture as not having the power to be treated equally, they will always prove that love is greater than wealth entire. In an article, Margaret McDowell had explained that “Giovanni saw that not only her work, but it affected her personal life”. Giovanni might have struggled with the inequality in her life, but poetry showed her that there is more to life than how others view life. Nikki Giovanni always had the strong urge to fight racism and sexualism, but through powerful, shortened words. Nikki Giovanni expressed African-American history through a view no one could have viewed before. In addition, an article that had brought the attention to the history of African-Americans, “her poems help explore issues and also concerns specifically to young children”. Including one of her poems, “Black History Month,” this poem will strengthen adolescents minds on how strong past generations felt about their culture and equality. It is very important to inform early generations about previous events so that no one will have to live through the terrible lives elder adults have. In the article written, one explains that “A longstanding mage of culture and joy in the black community, she will continue to explore the idea that even though people of color had many challenges to face in the past”.

The poem Nikki Giovanni has written will help younger minds to think bigger and better doing. Even though she has gone through a hard life, she is always joyful knowing who she truly is deep down as should all African-Americans. Nikki Giovanni knows more about her culture and history through the past experiences she went through and also her grandparent’s stories that were told to her. As Nikki’s grandparents lived, they had to do whatever anyone else said or they will receive consequences. As they grew up, they must obey the white persons’ words. In addition, she decided to tell one about her grandparent’s story. “She tells us the story of how her maternal grandparents were forced to leave Georgia because they had refused to submit to white donation”. Nikki explains through many of her poems that her culture has been disrespected more than she had ever wanted to experience. Coming from that story, Nikki decided to further look into her heritage as an African-American. The people who had promoted her poem “Ego-Tripping”, have implied that the ego-tripper stereotype has complained that her poems are irrelevant. She explains that she is “so swift that you cannot catch me”. Through those small five words, she is proving that she is capable of doing anything she sets her mind to. Equality, racism, and culture prove how society views the world. Through Giovanni’s words, she can help change that.

As Nikki Giovanni has stated multiple times, it was hard growing up in her shoes. She had mentioned stories that affected her family’s name in words so deep, it made people think about their actions and how they view the world. Everyone of mankind deserves the same equality no matter what race, culture or religion you are. The world is meant for everyone to live their own lives. Nikki Giovanni is very strong on equality, not just by race but sexualism as well. Women have been doubted with the things they could do and Nikki proved them wrong. Her poems represent the way she believes everyone should be treated; peacefully and with kindness. Through the poems, “Ego-Tripping”, “Black History Month”, and “Nikki-Rosa”, she has brought out her full emotions on racism, culture, and equality; with the powerful words, people are afraid to say.

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Depiction Of Affection In Kidnap Poem By Nikki Giovanni

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Would you ever want to be kidnapped by a poet? Nikki Giovanni addresses this question throughout her lyric and extended metaphor poem, which is called “Kidnap poem”. This poem’s message is to grasp love or to seduce an adored individual. Giovanni shares her personal passion, showing it through sound devices like alliteration and repetition to create a distinct rhythm. Also, she plays with punctuation and capitalization; she has lines of varying length with just one stanza of 19 lines to show the reputation of her love towards the adored individual.

The first important part of this poem is that she plays with the punctuation and capitalization which makes it flow and seem informal. “kidnap poem” has only four capitalized letters which are “Ever/You/Play/Black”, and each outlines the importance of her life for example “wrap you in the Black, red green”, represents fighting against racism, promoting equal treatment toward all races, she mentions it in the love poem because love is as essential to her as equality, so she is trying to compare both these topics to each other. By using the lack of punctuation, Giovanni lets us know that to express your feelings, writing rules are not significant. Also, the lack of punctuation and capitalization makes the poem easy to understand the theme.

Another critical aspect of the poem is how Giovanni uses alliteration and repetition to create a distinct rhythm; she includes those devices in the poem to make a steady rhythm. For example, “lyric you in lilacs”, is a metaphor and alliteration where she compares a lyric narrative poem to lilac flowers which represent love and innocence. Also, the words “kidnap you” are repeated throughout the whole free verse poem, which is the main point where an individual in love tries to “kidnap,” or seduce their loved one. Also, with the word “kidnap” the author tells us that she would do everything in order to be loved as she loves that person and gets whom she admires.

At last, Nikki Giovanni uses a unique technique to address the lines of varying length and just on stanza to emphasize main ideas; and usually, poets have same or similar line lengths, but she doesn’t. For example, “blend into the beach” is shorter verse, but the next line “complement my see” is longer. Adding to that, she shows her excitement. She compliments him, hoping to make a perfect pair of lovers. In the making, the poem becomes an extended metaphor because the speaker isn’t trying to kidnap her lover and blend them into the beach. Giovanni’s verse has 19 lines which are stretched out to one stanza. Since it is free verse, the poem’s structure is designed uniquely.

In conclusion, Nikki Giovanni’s free verse contains soothing words that emphasize love forms towards someone is uncontrollable. I think she tried to make her poem different from other poets by adding particular elements which makes it attractive for the audience to read and listen. She describes her love and warmth to a person by structuring it in a way to understand the message of the poem. Overall, this poem is all about affection.

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Literary Analysis of the Poem for Saundra by Nikki Giovanni

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

The poem “For Saundra” by Nikki Giovanni is a poem that really caught my attention because while reading it, it felt as if I can compare it to one of my own piece of writings. The poem “For Saundra” uses the literary thoughts of imagery and symbolism to see a different journey of transformation, also including a moment of self-realization. It is like one of those funny poems that not only include sarcasm but at the same time it is also self-spoken.

Nikki Giovanni stated, “I’ll write a beautiful green tree poem/ peeked from my window”, and Giovanni followed up with the phrase, saying, “noticed the school yard was covered with asphalt/ no green – no trees grow/ in Manhattan”. Is there any valid reason why she wouldn’t have quite recently contemplated the substance of the poem before she began composing? Giovanni wants to write poetry about beauty, however she is still in the process of discovering what to write about. Poetry can be perceived in a variety of ways in order to be poetry, it can come from emotions, behavior, and perspectives.

Nikki Giovanni repeatedly expresses this action in her piece of writing. In the beginning of the poem Giovanni states, “I wanted to write/ a poem/ that rhymes/ but revolution doesn’t lend/ itself to be-bopping”. From the start Giovanni admits that her thought of how poetry is expressed is changing, forcing her to lose faith in her way of expressing not only her feelings but her way of thinking. Furthermore, Giovanni’s most important words finish her poem because it gives her reason why she struggled. Her last three stanzas were “perhaps these are not poetic/times/at all” earlier she stated “but all the clouds have winged/low since no-Dick was elected” no-Dick is Richard Dixion and he was elected in the late 60s. This was a time period where America was not at its best. This was Giovanni imposed that it was not a good poetic time.

The poem “For Saundra” uses the literary thoughts of imagery and symbolism to see a different journey of transformation, also including a moment of self-realization. Nikki Giovanni expressed this self-realization by showing us how much of what was going on in our country impacted her way of living life, it was a hectic time. Even though this social change was forcing her to lose faith in her way of expressing not only her feelings but her way of thinking the effort to reach out to oppose the stigmatization. This influenced Nikki Giovanni to write such a poem which showed people how this impacted her train of thought on being able to write poetry at the time.

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The Beauty of Chaos in Nikki Giovanni’s Poem Beautiful Black Men

May 5, 2021 by Essay Writer

The Black Arts Movement in American introduced an assortment of new ideas into American culture of the time. One of these new concepts was that being black is beautiful and black people should not try to hide their ancestry or bodily characteristics. This notion played out in many different types of fads including but not limited to afros and African dress. The afro signaling the Blackman’s untamed natural and beautiful hair and the African dress connected them with their African ancestry. Many of the fads were often set up as opposed to the white cultural influence such as style of dress or straight hair. In her poem, “Beautiful Black Men,” Nikki Giovanni addresses and supplements examples for this understanding. The poem “Beautiful Black Men” sets up an atmosphere where the good or bad, natural characteristics of Blackness or Black people appear to be beautiful regardless.

One of the ways that Giovanni introduces the idea that the natural Blackman is beautiful is by the fact that these cool Afro-Americans were a sure sign of beauty regardless of what activity they were engaging in at the time. They are beautiful when they are doing good; they are beautiful when they are up to no good. The author states, “sitting on stoops, in bars, going to offices, running numbers, watching for their whores, preaching in churches, driving their hogs, walking their dogs, winking at me” (Giovanni 8). Giovanni is not saying that because a person is colored they are good or that because they are colored they are bad, but that either way they are still beautiful. They could be doing anything from gambling to preaching in church or going to work. Giovanni shows Blackness to be cool regardless of the present occupation. In much the same way, Giovanni as illustrates that the natural black is beautiful when they allow themselves to be just the way they are without hiding.

To some extent, dirt and grime are all parts of the world, but for much of the Western cultures people try to rid themselves of as much dirt as they can. Even with the best cleaner and the strongest soaps dirt is just a way of life, it is natural. Giovanni demonstrate who natural is a good thing by talking about the dirty toes. The author states, “…that smile at the sandals where dirty toes peek out and I scream and stamp and shout for more beautiful beautiful beautiful black men with outasight afros” (Giovanni 23). Instead of being disgusted or appalled by dirty feet, Giovanni responds to the sight with a want for more. This illustrates that the natural, the bad, the good, the ugly, the dirt does not make a person unattractive, but instead makes the appeal even stronger. There is something about knowing a person so well that they do not try to hide their farts anymore. In the same way, there is something beautiful in all the griminess that is the human experience. The Blackman according to Giovanni does not need to try and antiseptic his environment the same way the white people would do. He is beautiful just the way he is, even with dirty toes. The words and images that Giovanni uses to show beauty are emphasize even more clearly by how she choose to say them.

The structure of this poem is quite unlike the typical poem. It does not rhyme. The number of syllables in each line varies with each line. The rhythm of the poem is non-reparative. It in its own way characterizes beautiful ugly and it seems that Giovanni wishes it that way. The poem from the beginning refuses to acknowledge common literary structures. One example of this is when the author states, bout those beautiful beautiful beautiful outasight black men with they afros walking down the street (Giovanni 2)

It is easy to see from above that none of these lines rhyme or even share a slightly similar length. Unlike the customary white poetry, this poem is beautiful in itself without following all the unwritten rules of poetry. The structure of the poem creates the greatest statement for the beauty of black people by the way to refuses to bind itself by white characteristics of poetry but is beautiful itself. If this poem can be beautiful than so can every Blackman good or bad.

Nikki Giovanni has effectively created an argument for beauty in the chaos and the dirty through this poem. She shows Blackness in all that it is and it is not beautiful for just that reason. The conventions of the culture around do not determine the beauty of a person. Everyone is a little bit dirty. Everyone is a little bit flawed. Everyone is a little bit messed up. Everyone is beautiful nonetheless.

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Quilts by Nikki Giovanni: Literary Analysis

May 5, 2021 by Essay Writer

Quilts: The Threads of The Old but Not Forgotten

When we are young we do not think about getting old, rather older. But as we grow older and we find we are not as quick or swift as we used to be, we wonder. When we find out friends are as old as us, we wonder. We those around us are in nursing homes and unable to attend to themselves, we wonder. We wonder what will become of us as we get older. We wonder who will take care of us. We don’t wonder who, but rather WILL anyone take care of us when we are not able to do so ourselves? Will we get tossed aside “like a fading piece of cloth”?(135). Nikki Giovanni’s Quilts, asks the same question a tablecloth has when it has grown old, as we as humans do, as we grow older: What will become of us when we are no longer useful? However, we should not look for others to find what to do with us, but rather us to remember what we were in our younger days, and bring that to our older days, which will make us more useful than ever before.

The older we get we find we can’t move as quickly. Our thoughts aren’t as quick and we feel as though we may be holding others back, if not holding ourselves back. And the feeling of uselessness is the worst feeling someone can have. Giovanni gives a great description of the feeling of uselessness when she says, “No longer do I cover tables filled with food and laughter” (135). In our older age, we still want to be the life of the party and bring the joy to others that we did in your younger days. Not only do we start to feel like we are of no use to others, but we also worry about our appearance in the eyes of others. In our younger days, we were able to keep up on our appearances, but as we get older and especially in our older age, we not are not able to do so as freely. Our hands may not be as strong, or our eye sight may not be as great, thus, we feel as though we are a fright. We become that tablecloth that was used for many occasions but is no longer appealing to the eyes because and suddenly we are saying to ourselves, “My seams are frayed and my hems falling…” (135). We always want to feel useful to others, if not to ourselves, and we find ways to be just that, but sometimes, we are just longer “for those first days” (135) when we did cover the table, like the brand new table cloth. When we are new, we are useful, powerful can’t be left behind. And its those days that we daydream about.

As we get older we find ourselves thinking of days gone by and how we could do more. In our younger days we are the tablecloths that could “keep the water from seeping through” (135). We can protect those around us and “Dazzled the sunlight with my Reflections” (135). We remember the days when others couldn’t wait to place us on display and bragged about, like the tablecloth that is only used for special occasions. And just like that tablecloth when it is new, its beauty is described, its skin is felt and it is looked upon as a thing of beauty. But when as the table cloth gets old and begins to fall apart, we are put in the back of a closet and forgotten. When we realize we are not longer useful and a thing of beauty to be displayed, we try to find ways to make ourselves useful by remembering what we have done for those around us and how made others feel. And all though we are not able to perform the duties we used to or perform them in the same manner as before, we take join in knowing that the “tasks I can no longer complete, are balanced by the love of the tasks gone past” (135). We may concede to the fact that we may no longer be useful in the fashion we once were, we can be, however, useful in a new way.

All of us at some point in our lives will become like the tablecloth that has “frayed and strained and drizzled at the end” (135). We will find ourselves shoved to the side or put in the back of a linen closet, never to be used again or thought of; but for some reason, never thrown away. There is something to be done with the old that can either inspire the young or comfort another aging person. Our old age should not be the reason to toss us aside. Just like tablecloth that is no longer attractive on the table, we are still useable in a different way. We are now part of story. A worn out tablecloth holds many story that can be told and weaved in with other stories. Each one of us has a story that can be plucked out of us and tied to another’s story. An old worn out tablecloth is crying for someone to “cut a square and put me in a quilt” (135) so its stories can be carried on and embedded in with other stories of other tablecloths. And through the stories, that may never be heard, but felt, it might “keep a child warm” (135). And for those who can hear the stories, it will comfort “some old person with no one else to talk to” (135).

We don’t think about growing old when we are young, but we do think about being young when we are old. We try to find memories to hold on to and stories to tell that will keep others around as well as help us make new friends. Where we were once useful, like a tablecloth that prettied our tables for those special occasions, but has now grown old and showing signs of wear, we no longer become that one tablecloth used for special occasions. We may not be part of a quilt to keep someone warm, but we will always be found to be useful in someone’s life. We are all tablecloths in someone’s life and when we are done being the tablecloth, we can only hope we will become the memories the tablecloth holds.

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