Nikki-Rosa

Nikki-Rosa

by Nikki Giovanni

childhood remembrances are always a drag
if you’re Black
you always remember things like living in Woodlawn
with no inside toilet
and if you become famous or something
they never talk about how happy you were to have
your mother
all to yourself and
how good the water felt when you got your bath
from one of those
big tubs that folk in chicago barbecue in
and somehow when you talk about home
it never gets across how much you
understood their feelings
as the whole family attended meetings about Hollydale
and even though you remember
your biographers never understand
your father’s pain as he sells his stock
and another dream goes
And though you’re poor it isn’t poverty that
concerns you
and though they fought a lot
it isn’t your father’s drinking that makes any difference
but only that everybody is together and you
and your sister have happy birthdays and very good
Christmases
and I really hope no white person ever has cause
to write about me
because they never understand
Black love is Black wealth and they’ll
probably talk about my hard childhood
and never understand that
all the while I was quite happy

Summary of Nikki-Rosa

  • Popularity of “Nikki-Rosa”: Nikki Giovani, a famous African American poet and writer, wrote ‘Nikki-Rosa’. It is a narrative poem and one of the memories of Nikki’s childhood. It was first published in 1968. The poem speaks about the indifferent ideas of American and African-American people during the fight for equal rights. It also illustrates how these two races weigh their personal experiences.
  • “Nikki-Rosa”, A Comment on Materialistic Approach to the World: The poem compares the choices of American and African-American people. The poem begins when the speaker reflects on her childhood memories. She describes what happens when an African-American woman becomes an icon. She believes that a ‘white’ American will not understand the wealth gained with their ethnic background. The phrase ‘black love is black wealth’ expresses that for the African-American community, their wealth lies in the relationships and not material weather. She explains about the bliss she enjoyed in her childhood despite being poor. She justifies the stereotypical lifestyle in both communities.
    Nikki takes pride not to be fixated on the external realities of life. She also argues that she had a blessed childhood with lots of love and comfort of family around, even though her father struggled, and she didn’t have a toilet inside the house or enough water to bathe. Enchanted with worldly glitz and glamour, an American/Caucasian biographer would only document her difficult childhood and forget to notice the importance of her community.
  • Major Themes in “Nikki-Rosa”: Family love, racial difference, and fame are the major themes of this poem. The speaker recalls her poverty-stricken childhood. Throughout the poem, she tries to justify her stance toward her old days in contrast with the opinion of a non-African-American biographer. The poem focuses on the importance of relationships, community, and togetherness. The speaker argues that family, love, and support are the pillars of happiness. However, a person with a materialistic outlook will never understand the role they play. Her supportive family, her hard childhood was the center of her happiness. Unfortunately, most Americans are obsessed with material wealth. Therefore, while ascertaining the wealth, they forget the importance of family bonds.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Nikki-Rosa”

Literary devices are important elements of a literary text. They bring richness to the text and help the readers understand hidden meanings. Nikki Giovanni has also made this poem superb by using figurative language. Here is the analysis of some literary devices used in this poem.

  1. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /th/ in “and though they fought a lot” and the sound of /h/ in “and your sister have happy birthdays and very good”.
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /l/ in “Black love is Black wealth and they’ll” and “you always remember things like living in Woodlawn.”
  3. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break. Instead, it continues in the next line. For example,

“childhood remembrances are always a drag
if you’re Black
you always remember things like living in Woodlawn
with no inside toilet
and if you become famous or something
they never talk about how happy you were to have
your mother.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “you always remember things like living in Woodlawn ”, “and your sister have happy birthdays and very good Christmases,” and “it isn’t your father’s drinking that makes any difference.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between a person and objects that are different in nature. For example, in “Black love is Black wealth and they’ll” the wealth is compared to love.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Nikki-Rosa”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  2. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. This is a long narrative poem having thirty-three lines and no stanza break.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below can be used while talking about the hardships people faced during the racial tension in America.

childhood remembrances are always a drag
if you’re Black
you always remember things like living in Woodlawn
with no inside toilet.
and if you become famous or something
they never talk about how happy you were to have.”