Nikki Giovanni

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What is Nikki Giovanni's literary technique?

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In her poems, Nikki Giovanni employs a range of literary devices. She uses tone to emphasize the racism in the world. She uses diction to spotlight her themes of Black life and Black experience. She also uses repetition, which gives many of her poems a powerful, song-like, chant-like aura.

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As you probably already know, Nikki Giovanni is one of America’s most influential and acclaimed poets. In her poems, she employs an array of literary devices, or, as you say, “techniques.” I’ll tell you about some of them right now.

One literary device that stands out to me right away is diction. Diction is how a poet expresses themselves. It includes the words they use, the structure of their sentences, and even their grammar.

We see Giovanni’s distinct diction in poems like “The Great Pax Whitie.” In the poem, Giovanni uses words like “ain’t,” “nah,” and “chillun.”

The diction supports the themes of Giovanni’s poems. Many of her poems address Black experience. The confidence with which she deploys words often associated with Black communities helps underscore her themes of Black life and Black culture. You could also argue that she employs such diction to address themes of racism and stereotypes.

Another literary device Giovanni employs is repetition. Her poems frequently repeat words or phrases. In “They Clapped”, the phrase “they clapped” occurs often. In “The Great Pax Whitie,” phrases like “And the word…” and “The genesis…” are repeated. The repetition gives her poems a powerful, song-like, chant-like feel.

Another literary device Giovanni takes advantage of is tone. Giovanni employs a range of tones. She can be sarcastic, ironic, political, and sometimes even sentimental.

One of my favorite Giovanni poems is “Dreams.” I’d say the tone of this poem is rather sweet. In the poem, Giovanni tells how she wanted to be a famous singer growing up. Now that she’s more “sensible,” she just wants to become “a sweet inspiration.”

I’ve told you about four literary devices, I’m sure you can find much more on your own.

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