Nikki Giovanni

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What literary devices does Nikki Giovanni use in the poem "Dreams"?

The poem "Dreams" ends with a weak conclusion as the poem progresses. The speaker's vivid imagery and rebellious energy are replaced by domestic, cliched ideals of conformity. This suggests that the speaker is giving up her own hopes and dreams to become like everyone else, but she knows that in doing so, she has lost who she was and what made her special.

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The poem "Dreams" begins with the literary device of 'in media res' or in the middle of the action, as indicated by the abrupt start with a lower case letter in the word "in."

Giovanni further disorients the reader by her use of the lower case "i" as the the first-person pronoun rather than "I," suggesting that the narrator feels diminished by her life and her racial heritage.

The speaker also uses dialect as she describes what she wanted to "say" as the following:

“dr o wn d in my youn tears”
or “tal kin bout tal kin bout”
This dialect stops readers from reading too quickly. Instead, it forces them to slow down and figure out what is being said.
The loss of vivid and energetic imagery in the last lines of the poem, starting with "then as i grew . . ." mirrors the loss of the speaker's energy as she gives up her youthful rebellion and chooses to conform. Screaming "baaaaaby nightandday" is replaced by becoming a domesticated and cliched "sweet inspiration."

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Nikki Giovanni's "Dreams" was published in Black Feeling, Black Talk, Black Judgment.  The poem contains multiple literary devices. First, the poem's narrative mode is stream of consciousness. What this means is that the poem shows the thoughts and feelings of the speaker. The speaker lets the reader know how she (assumed to be a girl since "she" wants to be like Marjorie Hendricks or a member of the "raelets" (sic). 

Second, the poem contains alliteration. Alliteration is the repetition of a consonant sound within a line of poetry. Line eight (8) contains alliteration: “tal kin bout tal kin bout." Lastly, the poem contains repetition. Lines twelve and thirteen contain the exact same phrases: “baaaaaby nightandday / baaaaaby nightandday.”

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