"Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day" by Nikki Giovanni

Introduction

A poem by Nikki Giovanni entitled Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day evokes mixed feelings and responses, but it is definitely an unforgettable and worthwhile piece of literature that cannot leave readers unaffected. The poem under consideration is rather lengthy, being comprised of 12 stanzas that are not rhymed, yet seem to be strangely poetic and coherent despite the lack of syntactic cohesion. The author employs irrespective of stylistic devices and poetic means in order to convey her intended message and draw reader’s attention.

 

Moreover, the poem leaves a powerful impression by establishing strong connections with readers through appeal to inherent emotions and feelings, including loneliness, confusion, and powerlessness. The author manages to evoke to the fire innermost thoughts and emotions of readers through her deeply intimate first-person narration, which contributes to the power grounded in the poem. Personally for me, this poem means a retelling of my inner thoughts and emotions whenever I feel that loneliness and sadness of the daily routine gets the best of me, which also makes this poem both inspiring and a sign of hope that I am not the only one who feels this way.

Personal Impression on a Poem

Personal impression is the most subjective, yet at the same time obvious means of assessing poetry. A poem might be rhythmic, full of stylistic devices, abounding in allusions and symbols, but fail to communicate with hearts instead encouraging only intellectual endeavors aimed at analyzing the piece objectively with a view to its pros and cons. This is definitely not the case with the poem Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, which on the contrary lacks rhyme and resembles, to some extent, a stream of consciousness of the narrator who is overwhelmed with loneliness and sadness. The first-person narration creates an impression that the author herself tells her story without hiding any details and being extremely open about her experiences.

Thus, this poem bears an intimate character, which has managed to thrill and carry me away along with the stanzas from the very first lines. The poem is full of contradictions, juxtapositions, and choices that seem to be an integral part of any person’s life at some point. For instance, I cannot but emphasize with the narrator’s experience that is as follows: “Don’t look now / I’m fading away / Into the gray of mornings /Or the blues of every night” (Giovanni, “Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day”). There are some moments in life when all days are gray and long, while nights do not bring a sense of relief, but instead evoke extreme sadness and make loneliness as well as emptiness the only loyal companion. At such time, it is impossible to say what should be dreaded more – grey days or blue nights. The author manages to describe what any person feels during such bouts of loneliness that has increasingly been entering modern people’s lives and occupying a constant place there.

I have been impressed with how easily Nikki Giovanni can express the way she feels in a simple and clear way, for instance, “Things keep popping out / on my face / or / of my life”, hence implying that people and things abandon her all the time without paying attention to her depressed and desperate mood (Giovanni, “Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day”). A comparison of a human being with a cotton candy that can easily melt and lose taste as well as structure on a rainy day is incredibly fresh and striking as it is as well thought-provoking. I have thought about implicit and explicit messages of the poem, since the first time I read it and cannot but marvel how Giovanni’s brutal honesty could have turned out to be so complex and deep in meaning.

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There are two stanzas that have impressed me most with respect to personal emotions and general social problems. The latter one is raised in the fourth stanza that seems to sum up the greatest social problem of the contemporary times, which cannot be solved through improvement of technologies, diplomacy, money, or arms: “They have asked / the psychiatrists psychologists politicians and / social workers / What this decade will be / known for / There is no doubt it is / loneliness” (Giovanni, “Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day”).

Loneliness has become the source of depressions, many crimes, suicides, and other psychological problems of modern people. This global issue is tightly interrelated with the narrator’s personal problems evoked by the deeply rooted sense of loneliness. The author honestly says the following: “I strangle my words as easily as I do my tears / I stifle my screams as frequently as I flash my smile / it means nothing / I am cotton candy on a rainy day / the unrealized dream of an idea unborn” (Giovanni, “Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day”). This is a continuation of an idea that “the show must go on”, which is a driving force in lives of the overwhelming majority of people who mask their true feelings and present a semblance of normalcy as it is a polite and socially acceptable thing to do. The above two stanzas give me the strongest reactions since they are honest and sincere.

The poem has the only task of being a sort of confession of a woman plagued by loneliness and devastated by her inability to attract and hold people in her life. This task is achieved through messages conveyed, as well as stylistic means and devices employed by the author. Asyndeton creates an impression of reading inner thoughts of the narrator, something that she would confess only to herself in privacy. Moreover, the poem abounds in fresh comparisons (for example, loneliness as a grape, loneliness as a wood, and loneliness as life and cotton candy), epithets (for instance, “sweet soft essence of possibility” and “great tradition albeit circus”), metaphors, and allusions (for example, allusion to the author’s ethnic background by using the vernacular of her community (Giovanni, “Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day”). All this contributes to a smooth flow of narration and its thought- and empathy-provoking nature.

Summary

Thus, from the very first lines of the poem, readers expect it to be intimate, emphatic, sad, brutally honest, and memorable. Thanks to the artistic mastery and openness of the author, as well as employed language and stylistic means, all these expectations are fulfilled and the poem leaves behind a bit sad and lasting aftertaste. It encourages readers to reevaluate their own lives and consider what place is occupied by loneliness in their hearts. This poem also tells the story of countless women of all ages who struggle with the same problems as the narrator in their daily lives, but lack words and means to express them. Therefore, Nikki Giovanni is unique in her openness and extreme sincerity, which are translated into written words of her memorable and soul-wrenching poems.

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