What is "Woman" by Nikki Giovanni about? How does this poem relate to the author's life?
Nikki Giovanni's "Woman" is, from beginning to end, is a search for identity. It outlines clearly a partnership between a man and a woman where the woman desires support he will not give her. Each stanza is a progression of her attempts to be something and his failure in taking on the role of the "matched pair." Ultimately she finds her strength and independence in herself alone, without "him."
It is never wise to assume that the speaker of a poem and the author are the same voice. However, because Nikki Giovanni is a contemporary writer who has woven so much of herself and her life into her works, looking at her life could provide some insight into the message in this poem. Giovanni has written and published several volumes of poetry as well as children's books. She is a successful writer, speaker, motivator, college professor and a lung cancer survivor. Nowhere, in any published biography, does it mention that she is married or in a long term relationship with anyone. She has managed to build her own success from the ground up, on her own. If the poem "Woman" is in any way autobiographical, it most likely speaks to a time when she thought she needed someone else to complete her, and the epiphany moment that she realized she did not.
In essence, this poem is about the relationship problems experienced by one couple. Specifically, it is told from the perspective of the female speaker who describes the differences between herself and her male partner. In each stanza, the speaker uses a metaphor to talk about the various points of conflict in her relationship. In the second stanza, for example, she compares herself to a "robin" singing in the "leaves" but notes that her partner refuses to be a "tree." In other words, the speaker tries to express her desires and interests, but her partner fails to listen and understand.
In the final stanza, the speaker realizes that it is "all right" if she and her partner do not get along or cannot work together in their relationship. This implies that the couple has separated and the female speaker is accepting of this situation.
In terms of the poet's life, it is possible that "Woman" is based on her own romantic experiences, but this is not recorded in any sources.