Tag Archives: Nikki Giovanni

“Revolutionary Dreams” by Nikki Giovanni


This morning I read an amazing poem by Ms. Giovanni from her book The Women and the Men. It’s a great collection of poems and I encourage you to invest in a copy. Anyway, I would like to share the poem because I feel it’s important in the current political climate.

i used to dream militant
dreams of taking
over america to show
these white folks how it should be
i used to dream radical dreams
of blowing everyone away with my perceptive powers
of correct analysis
i even used to think i’d be the one
to stop the riot and negotiate the peace
then i awoke and dug
that if i dreamed natural
dreams of being a natural
woman doing what a woman
does when she’s natural
i would have a revolution

As the campaign marches on, the rhetoric has become more harsh and combative. Everyone wants to “take back the country,” or get rid of this group or defeat this other group. The focus is on everyone else, and no one seems to be looking within to figure out how they should change. As Nikki so eloquently expresses in her poem, revolutionary change is not forcing others to change to your view or ideology, true revolutionary change comes from within. It is the process of changing yourself and being an example. And let’s face it—that is the truly difficult task. Forcing someone to change or imposing your will upon others is easy. Honestly looking at yourself, acknowledging your shortcomings, and making a conscious decision to change is infinitely harder and requires significantly more courage.

I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture by Nikki Giovanni when I was a college student. She is an inspiring individual and an amazing poet. If you are unfamiliar with her work, I highly recommend you read more of her poetry.


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“All I Gotta Do” by Nikki Giovanni

NikkiGiovanniI recently read in the newspaper that Nikki Giovanni will be speaking at the UNCA graduation ceremony. This brought back memories of when I got to hear Nikki speak while I was in college and I was fortunate enough to attend the National Collegiate Honors Society Conference in San Antonio, TX. I had not heard of her at the time, but my English professors were very excited upon hearing she was going to be there. I went out and bought a book of her poems before going: The Women and the Men. It’s a very good collection of poems and worth purchasing.

Anyway, I decided to read one of the poems from the book this morning, so I picked “All I Gotta Do.” It’s a short poem and it has a strong rhythm to it, which makes it easy to read. In fact, I read it twice. As you read it, you can sense the beat of the verse, almost like there are percussion instruments driving the rhythm of the poem.

As far as the content, I got the impression that Giovanni is describing what it feels to be a woman in a male-dominated society. She describes the frustration of waiting in a subservient manner and not being able to take an active role in her life.

what i need to do
is sit and wait
cause i’m a woman
sit and wait
what i gotta do
is sit and wait
cause i’m a woman

I think we have moved closer to equality for women since Nikki wrote this poem (the book was published in 1975, so I assume the poem was written around that time). Still, I don’t think we are there yet, which is why I think feminist literature is still important. Until women attain a truly equal status with men, we need writers like Nikki Giovanni to express the frustration of how it feels to be treated as a second-class citizen.

Click here to read the poem online.

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Filed under Literature