HEART? What would win your Luxury

Before Reading
Kidnap Poem
Poems by Nikki Giovanni
What would win
your HEART?
RL 2 Determine a theme of a text
and analyze its development,
including how it emerges and is
shaped. RL 4 Analyze the impact
of specific word choices on
meaning and tone.
What would it take to win you over? Candy and flowers? A pretty
face? A sense of humor? What about love poems—could they
ever help someone win your heart? The following poems are so
passionate that if you answered no, you might change your mind
after reading them.
QUICKWRITE What is the one thing someone could do to make
you totally fall for him or her? In a paragraph, describe the act or
gesture—be it grand and thrilling or small and ordinary—that
would win your heart.
Meet the Author
text analysis: giovanni’s style
Nikki Giovanni is a poet who goes by her own rules. “I want
my writing to sound like I talk,” she says. To that end, Giovanni
employs a conversational style that breaks with convention.
Most of her work consists of lyric poetry written in free verse,
which lacks a regular rhyme and meter and often sounds like
natural speech. Giovanni’s unique style also includes
• a deliberate lack of punctuation and capitalization
• stanzas and lines of varying length
• simple language and clear metaphors
• the use of sound devices such as alliteration and repetition to
create a distinct rhythm
As you read, look for evidence of these techniques, and
think about how Giovanni’s diction and style help her
communicate her message.
reading skill: interpret ideas in poetry
The key to understanding and interpreting poetry is often
digesting little chunks at a time. Working through a poem
slowly can help you identify its theme, or underlying message
about life or human nature. As you read “Luxury” and “Kidnap
Poem,” write down interesting stanzas and unusual phrases.
Then record what you think each means. Finally, use the
meanings you have identified to help you determine each
poem’s theme.
Phrase or Stanza
i suppose living
in a materialistic society
to some would be having
more than what you need
People in money-centered
societies think excess equals
(“Luxury,” lines 1–5)
Nikki Giovanni
born 1943
Family Ties
Yolande Cornelia Giovanni Jr. was nicknamed
Nikki by her older sister. Giovanni’s close-knit
family moved from Tennessee to Ohio just
after she was born, but they often returned
to visit her dynamic, outspoken grandmother,
who was a huge influence on the poet.
Giovanni says her grandmother, a great
storyteller, was also “the only person I know
for sure whose love I did not have to earn.”
Young and Driven
Giovanni always suspected she’d be famous
one day. Her drive led her to Fisk University,
but her independent spirit got her kicked out
after just one semester. Giovanni eventually
returned to Fisk, where she became active
in the civil rights movement. A year after
graduating with honors, Giovanni published
Black Feeling, Black Talk, her first book of
poetry. The book was inspired both by the
death of her grandmother and by the poet’s
increasing outrage at the way African
Americans were treated in the United States.
Giovanni was determined to change society
through her poetry. Writing, according to
Giovanni, is the easy part. “Then,” she says,
“comes the hard part: you have to find
someone to read it.”
The Journey
Much of Giovanni’s early work consisted of
militant calls to action and angry demands
for racial equality. While she hasn’t lost her
political edge, Giovanni’s later poetry also
explores more personal territory, delving
into family, love, and loneliness. Giovanni
battled cancer in the 1990s, but after
successful surgery, she resumed her work.
Writing poetry, Giovanni says, “is a journey
without end.”
Complete the activities in your Reader/Writer Notebook.
Go to thinkcentral.com.
Nikki Giovanni
i suppose living
in a materialistic society
to some would be having
more than what you need
living in an electronic age seeing
the whole world by
pushing a button
the nth degree1 might
perhaps be
adequately represented
by having
someone there to push
the buttons for you a
i have thought if only
i could become rich and famous
i would
live luxuriously in new york
famous people eating
in expensive restaurants calling
long distance anytime i want
but you held me
one evening and now i know
the ultimate luxury
of your love b
Does this painting
seem luxurious to you?
Consider its colors, shapes,
and textures, as well as
the figures it depicts.
Explain your opinion,
citing details.
What elements of
Giovanni’s distinctive
style are apparent so far
in this poem? Explain
your answer, referring to
specific lines for evidence.
Reread lines 23–26. How
does the idea expressed
in this stanza compare
with the ideas in previous
stanzas of the poem?
1. the nth degree: the ultimate degree of something;
as much or as far as possible.
unit 8: author’s style and voice
Tumbling Flowers (1954), Hyacinth Manning-Carner.
© Hyacinth Manning-Carner/SuperStock.
Nikki Giovanni
ever been kidnapped
by a poet
if i were a poet
i’d kidnap you
put you in my phrases and meter
you to jones beach
or maybe coney island1
or maybe just to my house
lyric you in lilacs
dash you in the rain
blend into the beach
to complement my see2 c
play the lyre3 for you
ode you with my love song
anything to win you
wrap you in the red Black green
show you off to mama
yeah if i were a poet i’d kid
nap you
Sleeping Couple I (2000), Hyacinth Manning-Carner.
© Hyacinth Manning-Carner/SuperStock.
1. jones beach . . . coney island: beach and
amusement areas on the outskirts of
New York City.
2. complement my see: complete or perfect
my kingdom.
3. lyre (lFr): stringed instrument like a small,
U-shaped harp.
unit 8: author’s style and voice
RL 4
Language Coach
Informal Language This
kind of language is more
free with grammar and
punctuation rules than
formal language is.
How could you ask the
question in lines 1–2 in a
more formal way?
Read lines 9–12 aloud.
Describe the rhythm
created by Giovanni’s use
of short phrases like “lyric
you in lilacs” and “dash
you in the rain.” How
does the rhythm help
communicate her ideas
in this poem?
After Reading
1. Recall What is the “ultimate luxury” described toward the end of the
first poem?
2. Recall List three things the speaker of “Kidnap Poem” says she would do if
she were a poet.
RL 2 Determine a theme of a text
and analyze its development,
including how it emerges and is
shaped. RL 4 Analyze the impact
of specific word choices on
meaning and tone.
Text Analysis
3. Interpret Ideas in Poetry Review the chart you filled in as you read. Using
the interpretations you recorded, summarize the main message, or theme,
of each poem.
4. Analyze Voice Voice refers to a writer’s unique use of language that allows
you to “hear” a personality in his or her writing. How would you characterize
the voice of the speaker in “Luxury”? Consider the point of view from which
the poem is told and the language it uses, as well as the poem’s rhythm
and message.
5. Analyze Word Choice Reread lines 5–14 of “Kidnap Poem.” Consider
Giovanni’s unconventional use of words like meter, lyric, and ode. How does
Giovanni’s unusual word usage help her communicate her message about
the power of poetry? Support your answer with evidence from the poem.
6. Examine Giovanni’s Style Think about the poet’s description of her own
writing on page 875, and review the bulleted list of Giovanni’s trademarks.
Which stylistic elements help create Giovanni’s loose, conversational style
in “Kidnap Poem”? Explain your answer, citing evidence.
7. Compare and Contrast In terms of style, how are “Luxury” and “Kidnap
Poem” similar? In what ways do they differ? Think about the form and
rhythm of each poem, as well as the language Giovanni uses in each.
Cite specific examples from both poems to support your comparison.
Text Criticism
8. Critical Interpretations Rapper, singer, and actress Queen Latifah discovered
Giovanni’s poetry at age 14. “Nikki’s poems struck me,” Latifah explains.
“I could feel her. I liked how some of the things she wrote were so clever
and cool. I liked how she threw a little bit of rhythm around. All her poetry
seemed to be real and to have love in it.” After reading “Luxury” and “Kidnap
Poem,” do you agree or disagree with this description? Explain, citing
evidence from both poems.
What would win your HEART?
Are you easily won over?
luxury / kidnap poem