Nikki Giovanni and Linda Hogan both wrote poems in the 1970s about their grandmothers that seem totally different to the unaware reader. In actuality, they are very similar. These two poems, Legacies and Heritage, express the poet’s value of knowledge passed down from grandmother to granddaughter, from generation to generation. Even though the poems are composed and read very differently, the underlying message conveyed is the same, and each are valid first-hand accounts of legacies and heritages.
While Giovanni's Legacies is only about the grandmother, Hogan's Heritage describes, in addition to the grandmother's and her advice, the advice and appearances of other family members. Despite this, the grandmother remains the focus. In Giovanni's poem, the grandmother needs no introduction or background given for her. In Heritage, however, the mention of the other family members seems to set the stage for Hogan’s mystical grandmother. Linda Hogan is a woman of mixed background; she is part Chickasaw Indian, and part Caucasian. This seems to cause Hogan doubts about herself. This is illustrated in the line " It was the brown stain/ that covered my shirt, / my whiteness a shame." (Hogan 243) These doubts could possibly be the same dilemma that haunted Sylvia Plath. Plath also had a conflict in her background; her father was a Nazi
and her mother was part Jewish. Hogan may feel a similar pain, because in antiquity, the whites new to this continent exploited and killed Indians. She probably feels self-loathing in response to being around her Indian relatives, due to her white background. Giovanni does not feel any internal conflict concerning her heritage, but she is conflicted when her grandmother asks...
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...eme. My grandmother taught me things, as did Giovanni's grandmother, as did Hogan's. All older generations strive to pass on their traditions and wisdom onto people who can still use them. In ancient mythology, the crone, or old woman, was a figure wise in lore, remedies and magic. So are the two women in these poems. Even the titles themselves are connected; heritage and legacy are synonyms of each other. And while these poems aren't mirror reflections of one other, they are different versions of the same narrative. Everyone has their own story of their grandmother to tell, but it will never be the same as the next person's. Two stories that seem so radically different from each other will be alternate versions of one description, just like the two works by Nikki Giovanni and Linda Hogan that pay homage to their grandmothers’ wisdom and knowledge.
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