Nikki Giovanni’s poems are poems about life and her perspective on common events and objects. She personifies inanimate objects into human archetypes to cause for an emotional response in the reader and cause feelings of irrational compassion for said objects. In this way, she makes the reader feel guilt over the simple fact that fabric fades and diminishes over time in the poem Quilts. She speaks in the name of the quilt as if the quilt feels pain over aging and losing its aesthetic prowess, much like how a human being may feel less attractive as they grow older. Furthermore, in the poem Possum Crossing she speaks from her own perspective on the irrational comparison between possums, humans and leaves. She equates the values of all objects in nature by taking three, very different samples and insisting they deserve the same attention. The poem is basically a protest poem that states that all people on her street should treat possums with the same respect they treat their vehicles, in the sense that the road does not simply belong to humans but to possums and to leaves as well. This might be considered an activist poem against the effect that humans are having on the planet, which is quite admirable, however it makes no sense that the poet would expect anyone to personify a leaf as having the same amount of life as a possum, therefore the poem is more of a pointless emotional effort than an activist poem.
The line lengths of her verses across all her poetry seem to remain the same from line to line with the exception of notable lines that are made quite shorter as emphasis on a single point or object. They serve almost as a poetic thesis statement, like in Possum Crossing where “a little raccoon” is the only short line in the first half of the poem and “I look” (Giovanni, 2002) for the second half. She uses this approach to give importance to those two particular elements of the poem.
Giovanni seems to use enjambed lines of end-stopped lines almost indiscriminately. In fact, she only end-stops lines at the very end of some poems, possibly to signify the fact that it is the ending of the poem in a vocal sense as well as a literal. A person reading the poem would perhaps be expected to read it in a single pass, as a continuous sentence until the very end.
Her Stanzas do not contain the same amount of lines. She alternates between different number of lines dynamically and does not seem to care much for formal form.
Her diction is quite low in the sense that she remains dignified while only writing in colloquial, everyday language. The etymology and overall nationality of her wording is strictly US American, as notable in her use of strictly American words such as “trucks” (Giovanni, 2002) against the British “lorry” (Giovanni, 2002).
She does not use much figurative language in the sense that she remains specifically concrete with her statements. Her poetry is in that sense, prosaic. Even her poem Quilts which is obviously metaphorical in nature, remains a detailed and specific testimony of a quilt rather than an artistic and metaphorical poem. (Poets, 2011)
She avoids sound patterns such as alliteration assonance and consonance and instead follows a pattern of colloquial expression which leads to the conclusion that her poems are largely prosaic. In fact, the only thing weighing her poetry down towards the archetype of poetry is the use of stanzas and lines. Other than that, she’s basically following a stream of consciousness pattern commonly found in prose.
She uses neither rhyme nor slant rhyme, but instead makes sure that the number of syllables in every stanza makes it so that it is easily readable. Her punctuation only includes triple stops for elongation of verse, somewhat like how one might use commas. Further than that, she uses full stops only at the end of her poems and not throughout.
The graphic pattern of her poems seems to be non-existent and she’s even used free capitalization such as using full caps for her “POSSUM CROSSING” (Poetry Foundation, 2002) sign within the poem. She capitalizes freely and writes in the same manner. All in all, her poetry is almost fully prosaic, made poetic only by the use of verses. I believe that this earnest approach is what made her an accomplished poet in the first place. People like reading poetry that flows from the tongue much like as if they were to state it themselves.
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