Ideas Behind the Poetry of the Member of Black Arts Movement, Nikki Giovanni

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

There are many ways to express a story or feelings; one way being poetry. Poetry has been around for many decades, continuously growing in popularity over the years. As poetry became more published it was sorted and assigned into different categories of poetry. A few categorizes are romanticism, modernism, postmodernism, etc. These categorizes help in better understanding of the poems and how the poets were able to articulate their thoughts into words. One category of poetry that challenged the status quo was the black arts movement.

The black arts movement was a powerful movement of poetry originated by a poet named Amiri Baraka in the mid 1960’s (Black Arts Movement). With the civil rights movement being a relative sister at the time, the black arts movement challenged white power systems and gave black poets a voice. A few examples of poets during this time include Nikki Giovanni, Gwendolyn Brooks, Haki Madhubuti, and many more. These poets used their poems to convey stories, assert their identities as African American/ Black, and produce politically connected works for the world to read. The poetry often included linguistic and rhythmic techniques, giving the poems a “beat” within the stanzas.

One of the most renowned poets during the black arts movement was Nikki Giovanni. Her poetry attests her journey of self-awareness through several stages: from childhood to young womanhood, naïve college student to civil rights activist, and from daughter to mother (Nikki Giovanni). Her poetry expresses a sense of respect for family and a strong pride for her race. While her poems are often written in “free verse”, meaning there is no strict meter to stick by, Giovanni uses her poetic ideas to create a structure for each individual poem that is unlike the others. In other words, no two poems by the poet, look identical in structure. (Nikki Giovanni Poetry Analysis) She was a big contributing factor to creativity during the black arts movement because she would offer experience and tips through a publishing cooperative for other African American women writers such as Gwendolyn Brooks and Carolyn Rodgers. (Nikki Giovanni)

Nikki Giovanni has written numerous poems during her career and through the black arts movement. One example of Giovanni’s work is a poem titled Woman. In this poem, she utilizes several poetic devices to entertain her audience and tell a story. One device used through the poem is metaphors. An example of this is in the second stanza of the poem. She begins by saying “She wanted to be a robin singing through the leaves but he refused to be her tree” (5-8), and in this metaphor she is comparing herself to a robin bird freely signing. When she mentions “he refused to be her tree”, the tree signifies stability. The narrator expresses that she wishes to be as happy and free as the robin however with the man not being her tree, she has not home to return to and no support and stability behind her. Another poetic device that Giovanni uses is imagery. When looking at the third stanza of the poem it says:

she spun herself into a web

and looking for a place to rest

turned to him

but he stood straight

declining to be her corner (9-13)

In this example, the author uses simple words to set the scene for her audience; a spider just wondering looking for a place to create her web but the man he standing in the way of the corner. This line is a play on the life of spiders. When spiders go to create their webs, many find comfort in the corners of room for safety and relaxation. However, in the narrator’s case, this man is blocking her way and not allowing her a place to rest.

This poem is a constant battle for the woman to attempt to achieve what she wants in life and a man holding her back. In the end, the narrator says “she decided to become a woman and though he still refuses to be a man she decided it was all right” (18-23). In these final lines, the narrator decides that the only thing she can do is be herself. The woman begins to grow into a woman, while the man refuses and stays in his old mindset. This is a liberation for the woman as now she is free to be happy and whoever she wants to be.

Another example of strong poem written by Nikki Giovanni includes the poem Nikki-Rosa. Starting with the title, it is almost an awareness of self-growth of the author, Nikki Giovanni and the political life of Rosa Parks. She starts off the poem by expressing what it would be like if she became “famous or something” (5). She later on implies that if a white person were to ever write about her, they would not understand how black love is, even through all the hardships that might be endured.

The narrator of the poem is reminiscing about the good and bad of her childhood and although “they” (possibly other celebrities or critics) would say she was surrounded by nothing but poverty, she paints out the best moments and the importance of her family love. As the reader gets to the end of the poem, it is clear that the white man will not understand that as long as her family is together and safe, she has all the happiness and wealth in the world. (30-33).

One tool, Giovanni uses in this poem is punctuation. With no end marks on any stanza, this gives the reader the sense that the poem is just one elongated thought.

Another device used in this poem is tone. With the poem having no punctuation, there is a very casual tone behind the poem, as if Nikki Giovanni was speaking directly to each reader personally.

Woman By: Nikki Giovanni

she wanted to be a blade

of grass amid the fields

but he wouldn’t agree

to be a dandelion

she wanted to be a robin singing

through the leaves

but he refused to be

her tree

she spun herself into a web

and looking for a place to rest

turned to him

but he stood straight

declining to be her corner

she tried to be a book

but he wouldn’t read

she turned herself into a bulb

but he wouldn’t let her grow

she decided to become

a woman

and though he still refused

to be a man

she decided it was all

right

Nikki-Rosa By: Nikki Giovanni

Childhood remembrances are always a drag

If you’re Black

You always remember things like living in Woodlawn

With no inside toilet

And if you become famous or something

They never talk about how happy you were to have

Your mother

All to yourself and

How good the water felt when you got your bath

From one of those

Big tubs that folk in chicago barbecue in

And somehow when you talk about home

It never gets across how much you

Understood their feelings

As the whole family attended meetings about Hollydale

And even though you remember

Your biographers never understand

Your father’s pain as he sells his stock

And another dream goes

And though you’re poor it isn’t poverty that

Concerns you

And though they fought a lot

It isn’t your father’s drinking that makes any difference

But only that everybody is together and you

And your sister have happy birthdays and very good

Christmases

And I really hope no white person ever has cause

To write about me

Because they never understand

Black love is Black wealth and they’ll

Probably talk about my hard childhood

And never understand that

All the while I was quite happy

Not enough By: Cheyenne Moses-Frazier

they all just

stared at her skin

fascinated but

the depth and richness

of her calm

caramel skin

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