The Poetry Of Giovanni Essay

2323 words - 9 pages

Born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni on June 7, 1943, in Knoxville, Tennessee, Nikki Giovanni grew up in the suburbs of Cincinnati. At the age of sixteen, she entered Fisk University; she was graduated magna cum laude with a degree in history in 1967. Her political involvement at the university in the early 1960's, combined with her increasing interest in writing, led to her obtaining a Ford Foundation grant in 1967 that aided her in the publication of her first book of poetry, Black Feeling, Black Talk. She quickly gained popularity for her first collection and followed in the same year with the publication of Black Judgement. The unifying themes of the work are the black struggle and the role she sees for herself as both a participant in and a witness to the historic events of the Civil Rights movement.Giving a glimpse into the childhood of the poet is the poem "Nikki-Rosa," which highlights a happy childhood: "everybody is together and you/ and your sister have happy birthdays and very good/ Christmases." In addition to writing about her sister, Gary, in many of her works, Giovanni describes her close relationship with her mother, Yolande, her father, Gus, and her maternal grandparents, John and Louvenia Brown. Later, with the birth of her son, Tommy, in 1969, Giovanni began writing children's poetry, including Spin a Soft Black Song: Poems for Children, Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People, and Vacation Time: Poems for Children. In addition to her strong pride in herself as an African American came the pride of a mother; she tried to transmit her values of black aestheticism to children through her poetry, as in the following: "i wish i were/ a shadow/ oh wow! when they put/ the light on/ me i'd grow/ longer and taller and/ BLACKER."The social and political changes that Giovanni has witnessed have affected the tone of her works. Chronicling the changes are her autobiography, entitled Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-Five Years of Being a Black Poet (1971), and her collection of essays Sacred Cows-And Other Edibles (1988).Pulling the tenets of her life together, Giovanni faces, as do her readers, contradictions in her poetry. Many of these seeming contradictions are the result of the changes that have taken place on the "rooms outside" (society) and on the "rooms inside" (the individual), which are major themes in her poetry. In an interview with Claudia Tate, the poet addresses these contradictions:If I never contradict myself then I'm either not thinking or I'm conciliating positions and, therefore, not growing. There has to be a contradiction. There would be no point to having me go three-fourths of the way around the world if I couldn't create an inconsistency, if I hadn't learned anything. If I ever get to the moon, it would be absolutely pointless to have gone to the moon and come back with the same position.Beginning with My House, Giovanni attempts to put into perspective the truth for herself and...

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