Nikki Giovanni

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Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni has evolved as writer; naturalist and a modernist later. Naturalism was a literary movement that was taking place from the 1880s to 1940s that used detailed realism to suggest that social conditions, heredity, and environment had inescapable force in shaping human character. Giovanni shows naturalism in her works "Poem (No Name No. 2)", and “[Untitled] (For Margaret Danner)”. Just to give a little background on modernism, Modernism is when writers proclaimed a new "subject matter" for literature and the writer feels that its new way of looking at life required a new form, a new way of writing. The writers of this period tend to pursue more experimental and usually more highly individualistic forms of writing. Yolande Cornelia "Nikki" Giovanni was born June 7, 1943. She is an American poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator. Her primary focus is on the individual and the power one has to make a difference in oneself and in the lives of others. Nikki Giovanni is one of the best-known African-American poets who reached distinction during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her unique and insightful poetry testifies to her own evolving awareness and experiences: from child to young woman, from naive college freshman to seasoned civil rights activist, from daughter to mother. Frequently anthologized, Giovanni’s poetry expresses strong racial pride and respect for family. Her poems are easy to read and understand and her work is capable of reaching an audience regardless of age, race, gender, or social class. In these first works, her motives are clear: the importance of raising awareness about the rights of African-Americans: the first three collections of poems, Black Feeling, Black Talk (1968), Black Judgment (1968), and Re: Creation (1970), her content was urgently revolutionary and suffused with deliberate interpretation of experience through a black consciousness.

Giovanni’s first three volumes of poetry were enormously successful, answering a need for inspiration, anger, and solidarity in those who read them. She publicly expressed the feelings of people who had felt voiceless, finding new audiences beyond the usual poetry-reading public. Black Judgment sold six thousand copies in three months, almost six times the sales level expected of a poetry book. As she travelled to speaking engagements at colleges around the country, Giovanni was often hailed as one of the leading black poets of the new black renaissance. The prose poem “Nikki-Rosa,” Giovanni’s reminiscence of her childhood in a close-knit African-American home, was first published in Black Judgement. The poem expanded her appeal and became her most beloved and most anthologized work. During this time, she also made television appearances, later published as conversations with Margaret Walker and James Baldwin ( Giovanni 234) .

She writes, "If the Black Revolution passes you bye its damned/sure/the white reaction to it won't" (Giovanni,33). Coming from her first book of poetry, this notion of a "Black Revolution" spreads throughout her early works. Also in her first book, "Poem (No Name No. 2)," she writes:

Bitter Black Bitterness
Black Bitter Bitterness
Bitterness Black Brothers
Bitter Black Get
Blacker Get Bitter
Get Black Bitterness
NOW (Giovanni,32)
Giovanni's poetry shows awareness towards the mentality of an oppressed race, the anger, and the desire to break from oppression at all costs. Giovanni's writings during this early period in the late sixties/early seventies were clearly centered on race and racial issues apparent in American society. But just as Giovanni says that an impersonal organization cannot define a revolution, her poetry takes a turn towards the personal. Her poetry is personal and political, often revolving around events that occur in her life. "Poetry," she has written, "is but a reflection of the moment. The universal comes from the particular "(1)....
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