Giovanni, Nikki (Vol. 2)

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Last Updated on November 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 598

Giovanni, Nikki 1943–

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Miss Giovanni is a Black American poet and author of the autobiographical Gemini.

At 28, [Nikki Giovanni] is one of the most talented and promising black poets. She is also one of the most visible, not only because she is beautiful but because she is a shrewd and energetic propagandist. In this interim autobiography [Gemini], both poet and propagandist underscore that point about black love and happiness. Part memoir and part manifesto, it is a plain-spoken, lively, provocative, confusing book….

Hers is a committed social rage. She is capable of scalding rhetoric, but the artist in her keeps interrupting. For one thing, she is a natural fabulist. A tirade on colonialism turns into a series of irresistible parables about the wise and natural black man faced with the petty, scheming honky. Also, she cares too much about language not to kid her own fire breathing, at least occasionally….

She keeps sending out bulletins—in poetry, prose, children's books—whether they are neat or messy, rash or reasoned. But one senses a dynamic intelligence behind the shrillest page of Gemini. It is a report about a life in progress that demands to be seen.

Martha Duffy, "Hustler and Fabulist," in Time (reprinted by permission from Time, The Weekly Newsmagazine; © 1972 by Time Inc.), January 17, 1972, pp. 63-4.

[Nikki Giovanni] probably is the busiest poet in America…. Nikki, the poet, has become a personality, a star.

Nikki's poetry is about what she sees, what she feels and experiences [and she often deals in her poems with her own happy childhood and with her family]…. Besides dealing with her childhood, Nikki's poetry and essays deal also with, among other things, the black liberation movement, revolution, love among all black people and between individual black man and black woman, Angela Davis (who, Nikki feels, is being "used" by communists), and rhythm and blues music (which is her favorite kind) and its interpreters, most notably Aretha Franklin, who, Nikki says, "flips me out!" Nikki's language ranges from angry to bitter to sensuous to melancholy to joyful….

Like it or not—and some people don't like it—she has become a cultural force to be dealt with. She's a much-anthologized poet and she's a lecturer who commands a vast audience among, in her words, "college students and prison inmates."…

There are black...

(The entire section contains 598 words.)

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