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18 pages 36 minutes read

Nikki Giovanni

Ego Tripping

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1968

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Literary Devices

Form and Meter

Like the majority of poetry written and published in the 20th century, “Ego Tripping” is written in free verse, with nonmetrical and nonrhyming lines that sound like natural speech when read aloud. The shortest line is just one word, “jesus” (Line 31), while the longest line contains eleven words. The poem’s 51 lines are divided into eight, uneven stanzas that vary from two to twelve lines. Adding to the free flow of the poem, Giovanni uses almost no punctuation, except for the two ellipses that appear in the final lines of the poem.

Rhythm

The varying rhythms in “Ego Tripping” echo the distinctive sound of improvisational jazz music, which was an important influence on the Black poets of the Harlem Renaissance and contemporary poets. Like improvised melodies in jazz, Giovanni’s deliberate use of repetition, internal rhyme, and consonant syllables that vary in weight create a unique overall sound when the poem is spoken out loud.

The repetition of the singular first person pronoun “I” emphasizes the personal nature of the words that follow. The lengths of the complete thought are sometimes very brief, stating one simple message in clear terms on one single line of poetry; other times, the complete thought is lengthy and involved, drawing attention away from the speaker and towards the details of the accomplishment/event described for two or more lines.

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