Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People Analysis
In Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People, the poetic journey is both a personal and a universal one. The poems focus on childhood remembrances or those memories of the young adult trying to describe a chaotic world so that she can find her place in it. For example, “knoxville, tennessee” is told from the perspective of a young girl enjoying the freedom of summer in the South. For her, summer is to “go to the mountains with/ your grandmother/ and go barefooted/ and be warm/ all the time.” Told through a child’s point of view, these poems center on finding personal happiness, as illustrated in the poem “everytime it rains.” The young girl of the poem struggles “to find/ the end of a rainbow,” for she thinks that this will help her learn “how to laugh.” In the end, she still does not laugh, but she at least recognizes when something is comical. Capturing the pensiveness of children, the poet pairs this poem with another on the opposite page. Entitled “alone,” this poem also reiterates the self-absorption of children and shows that they can feel lonely even when they are with others: “i was lonely alone/ now i’m lonely/ with you.”
Through “poem for black boys” and “poem for my nephew,” the poet embraces the theme of black power and calls out to black children to do the same. “Where are your heroes, my little Black ones,” the speaker asks in “poem for black boys.” The answer at the conclusion of the poem is that they are their own heroes, who must invent their own games and teach the “old ones how to play.” In the latter poem, the persona wishes to become “longer and taller and BLACKER.” Both poems dramatize the importance of instilling black pride and a strong sense of self into its African American readers.
Having been an important voice in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, Giovanni includes poems that delineate the anger and frustration of a young black woman trying to make sense of it all. The theme of destroying a dream is articulated in both “word poem” and “the funeral of martin luther king, jr.” In addition, they conclude with the image of a new world in which people are free and can become what they dream.
The dream imagery resonates in other poems as well. For example, in “dreams,” the persona describes the differences between the innocent dreams of youth and the compelling dreams of adults. In her younger years, she dreams of becoming a sultry singer, but finally, as an adult, realizing that “black people aren’t suppose to dream,” she compromises and decides to become merely a “sweet inspiration,” which is actually a meaningful understatement. Notably, this poem is paired with “revolutionary dreams,” a poem that sketches the evolution of a young woman’s dreams from militant to radical to natural in the process of becoming a woman who is capable of change, as symbolized in the image of a revolution.
Moreover, unifying the collection is the harmonious blending of a personal and universal perspective of the African American experience that is capable of translating a poet’s and a nation’s struggle for peace. In “communication,” the need to find the perfect medium to transform the human spirit is music. If music is the “universal language,” the poet argues, then let her be “one whole note.” It is this desire to strike the right note, to be a part of change, that provides the melodious tone for the poetry. Although each of the poems may strike a different note in the reader, the poetry proves to be satisfying.