63 Nikki Giovanni Quotes Celebrating Poetry and the Human Spirit

These Nikki Giovanni quotes will help remind you of the power you have to make a positive difference.

Nikki Giovanni is an American poet, activist and educator.

One of America’s foremost poets, Giovanni is the author of numerous children books and poetry collections.

Her work covers topics ranging from race and social issues to children’s literature.

Born on June 7, 1943, in Knoxville, Tennessee, Giovanni first caught the public’s attention as part of the Black Arts movement of the late 1960s.

She published her first volume of poems, Black Feeling, Black Talk in 1968, and has gone on to publish other numerous collections of poetry over the course of a long career.

In recognition of her work, Giovanni has received numerous awards and accolades, including seven NAACP Image Awards, the Langston Hughes Medal, and over twenty honorary degrees.

She has also been named as one of Oprah Winfrey’s 25 “Living Legends”, and her poetry album, The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, led to a Grammy nomination.

As one of the leading poetic voices, Giovanni is someone who has clearly managed to tap into her Everyday Power.

In that respect, below is our collection of inspirational, wise, and thought-provoking Nikki Giovanni quotes.

Don’t forget to also read these quotes from Dorothy Parker to uncover life’s secrets.

If you enjoy this article, check out our most popular quote article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily motivation. 

If you want more motivational quotes, check out our motivational quotes category page.

Nikki Giovanni quotes celebrating poetry and the human spirit

1. “A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it” –  Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about celebrating poetry and the human spirit

Everyday Application: Change, despite the fact that it can be scary, is the only way we grow and develop. Change can open new doors that do make it seem like you are in a whole new world! What you will do in that new world is up to you. So embrace it and flourish!

You will also enjoy our article on short inspirational poems.

2. “Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to the error that counts.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about mistakes are a fact of life

Everyday Application: You will not make it through this life without making mistakes. Heck, you might not make it through the day without making one. That is ok, they happen to all of us! What you do with them defines who you are and sets up your life. Choose your responses wisely!

You will also enjoy our article on black women quotes.

3. “Now, everything I do, I do because I want to. And I believe the best is yet to come.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about best is yet to come

Everyday Application: Are you doing things because you want to and are passionate about them? Or are you doing things out of sense of responsibility, feelings of comfort, or fear of failure? Do the things that you heart calls you to do, and you will be amazed at the direction your life takes!

4. ”If now isn’t a good time for the truth, I don’t see when we’ll get to it.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about good time for the truth

Everyday Application: The truth can sting a little. Sometimes, it is pure agony. There is never a good time to face painful truths, but being unaware does not make them less true. The time to be honest is now!

5. “If you don’t understand yourself, you don’t understand anybody else.” – Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni quotes about understand yourself

Everyday Application: Such great words! It is kind of in the same vein as “if you don’t love yourself, you can’t love anyone else.” Learn to understand your motivations, responses, and fears first. Then you will be much more equipped to offer empathy or help to others.

6. “Follow your image as far as you can no matter how useless you think it is. Push yourself.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about push yourself

Everyday Application: How do you envision yourself and your life? Are you doing the work to make sure you get there? It is going to be challenging and uncomfortable. It will require sacrifices and growth, but push yourself because you deserve to live the life you dream of!

You will also enjoy our article on Lizzo quotes.

7. “There are things you stand up for because it’s right.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about there are things you stand up for because it's right

Everyday Application: What’s right is right, and the rest doesn’t count. Be a champion for what is right, and those who can not defend themselves in this world. Love and kindness and doing the right thing will make the world a better place!

8. “Deal with yourself as an individual worthy of respect and make everyone else deal with you the same way.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about deal with yourself as an individual worthy of respect

Everyday Application: We teach others how to treat us by how we treat ourselves, and the boundaries we have in place with others. Treat yourself with respect, love, and compassion, and expect the same from others. The flip side also includes treating others how you want to be treated.

You will also enjoy our article on Frankenstein quotes.

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9. “I really don’t think life is about the I-could-have-beens. Life is only about the I-tried-to-do. I don’t mind the failure but I can’t imagine that I’d forgive myself if I didn’t try.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about forgiving

Everyday Application: Those “what ifs” will haunt you forever. You can eliminate them by shooting your shot, and taking the risks. Not trying is worse than failure any day! Failure is another chance to try again armed with more knowledge.

10. “If everybody became a poet the world would be much better. We would all read to each other.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes celebrating poetry

Everyday Application: Read a lot, and share those inspiring words with others. We might not all be poets, but we can tap into the poet’s spirit and try to find beauty around us. We can speak of our joys and sorrows in a way that other people can relate to.

Nikki Giovanni quotes to help you make a positive difference in your life and the lives of others

11. “I am totally fascinated by people and our history as I understand and continue to explore it. People have so much to give and so far to go and yet we have given and gone a great distance. It’s really just interesting to ask: why not? And see where that takes me.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes from Nikki Giovanni

Everyday Application: It is mind blowing to think of all the things humans have invented, created, and discovered. They did this by thinking outside the box, and asking many questions. One of those is certainly, “Why not?” Don’t be afraid to ask that and see what happens!

If you enjoyed this article, read our collection of Rumi quotes on life, love and strength that will inspire you.

12. “Poetry is like air. It’s one of the necessary things. Everyone benefits from poetry. And as you know, poetry is international. There are only two things that are truly international, poetry and wine.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about poetry and wine

Everyday Application: Poetry is essential! It gives the writer the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings, rather than bottling them up. Poetry gives the reader the chance to feel something and be moved by someone else’s perspective. Poetry also helps with learning and thinking!

13. “Poems don’t have to rhyme. Poems are about beauty and emotion; in other words, poems are about feelings.” – Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni quotes to help you make a positive difference in your life and the lives of others

Everyday Application: If you spirit is moved to create poetry, then just do it. You don’t have to worry about stanzas, word count, rhyming, or anything else! Get your feelings down on paper, and share them with the world (or don’t if that is not what you want to do with your poems).

14. “Everyone understands that love comes in many different packages and is used in many different ways. You cannot love beyond your years, nor can you fail to love beneath them. In other words, I think you get the love you need when you open your heart.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about love comes in many different packages

Everyday Application: Having a heart that is open to love is essential to a healthy relationship. So is loving yourself. The way you love yourself teaches other people how to treat you. You also exude confidence and that attracts the type of partner that will treat you right!

15. “The only advice [for new writers and poets] I can offer is to be yourself: not the self-someone else wants you to be, but the self you are. Enjoy yourself and your life. But most of all travel and eat. That’s how we learn.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about enjoy yourself and your life

Everyday Application: This is great advice for everyone, not just writers and poets. You are unique and special, and your life has value and meaning. Enjoy lots of new experiences because they are what make up the moments that matter in life!

16. “The ability to take pride in your own work is one of the hallmarks of sanity.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about the ability to take pride in your own work is one of the hallmarks of sanity

Everyday Application: Being humble is often associated with being a kind and decent person. Humility is good in the sense of knowing that you are no better or more deserving than other people. However, it is important to take pride in your accomplishments for a few reasons. First, if your accomplishments didn’t make you feel good, purposeful, or challenged than what would motivate you? Secondly, when you down play the work and effort you put into achieving a goal, you make others think that it was in fact ‘No big deal.’

17. “If I can’t have what I want . . . then my job is to want what I’ve got and be satisfied that at least there is something more to want.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about satisfaction

Everyday Application: Being grateful for the things you have in your life is one of the best ways to improve you overall well-being. The simple truth is that you may not always get what you want. However, if you can be satisficed with the things you currently have, and make plans to achieve other things you want, then you make peace with your unmet desires much easier.

18. “I hope I die warmed by the life that I tried to live.” – Nikki Giovanni

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nikki giovanni quotes about the life that I tried to live

Everyday Application: Death is inevitable for all of us. However, the life we live in this moment should be one that fills you with joy, purpose, gratitude, and happiness. When we do reach the end of our lives, how amazing would it be to know that we tried everything we wanted to try? Maybe we didn’t succeed at all the things we wanted, but we lived our lives authentically.

19. “Once you know who you are, you don’t have to worry anymore.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about once you know who you are, you don't have to worry anymore

Everyday Application: Lori Haase completed a study that showed the people who maintained body-awareness had a more positive way of adapting to stress. Knowing who you are means being aware of your body and physical health, as well as understanding your emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. Check out this article for more tips on improving your self-awareness.

20. “The world is not a pleasant place to be without someone to hold and be held by.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about the world is not a pleasant place to be without someone to hold and be held by

You might also like these Pablo Neruda quotes that will leave you questioning life and love.

Nikki Giovanni quotes that will make you think outside the box

21. “Life is a process where people mix and match, fall apart and come back together.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about life is a process

22. “No one needs to teach you to be mean; we need to be taught to be kind.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about no one needs to teach you to be mean; we need to be taught to be kind

23. “The only way you can grow is to let yourself make mistakes and create contradictions. As we learn new things, some of our old attitudes will change.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about to let yourself make mistakes and create contradictions

Everyday Application: Mistakes, learning new things, and examining our beliefs and attitudes are all ways we grow. Mistakes provide us with the knowledge of what doesn’t work, and provide us with an opportunity to try another avenue. Learning a new tidbit of knowledge can help you fill in the missing pieces and improve your skills. Sometimes, the attitudes, beliefs, and habits we have had all our lives no longer serve us, and we need to examine them to see if they still align with who we are.

24. “If you are sitting there waiting for someone to tell you how wonderful you are, you’ll never get anything done. Women need to get over being women. I’m tired of that socialization of women; that we are always supposed to be sitting around pleasing somebody.” – Nikki Giovanni

nikki giovanni quotes about socialization

25. “We have a world to conquer…one person at a time…starting with ourselves.” – Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni quotes that will make you think outside the box

26. “There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don’t expect you to save the world I do think it’s not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary and remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair and disrespect.” – Nikki Giovanni

27. “We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.” – Nikki Giovanni

28. “Everybody owns themselves. It’s all we’ve got. We have every right to be us. We have every right to satisfy our own needs with the life that we were given. I have no idea, no concept, of why people could ever thing that they could own other people.”  – Nikki Giovanni

29. “I am a huge fan of the Black woman. I never hesitate to recommend her when times are bad or things go wrong.” – Nikki Giovanni
If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read our collection of quotes from black women for a boost of inspiration.

30. “You do what you can with what you have. You have to work the edges whatever they are. The main thing is keeping your integrity.” – Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni quotes on life and creativity

31. “A lot of people refuse to do things because they don’t want to go naked, don’t want to go without guarantee. But that’s what’s got to happen. You go naked until you die.” – Nikki Giovanni

32. Everybody that loves freedom loves Harriet Tubman because she was determined not only to be free, but to make free as many people as she could.” – Nikki Giovanni

33. “If you were a pure bolt of fire-cutting the skies I’d touch you-risking my life-not because I’m brave or strong, but because I’m fascinated by what the outcome would be.” – Nikki Giovanni

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34. “In order to have a happy ending, in order to be triumphant, in order to be heroic, you have to tell your own story. The women’s movement knows that; black people know that; brown people know that; yellow people know that. You have to be able to tell your own story in order to show that you are worthy–that you belong.” – Nikki Giovanni

35. “The unwillingness to try is worse than any failure.” – Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni quotes on life and creativity

36. “Before you jump off a bridge or hang yourself or be unhappy please consider: live for yourself; those who hate you have no purchase.” – Nikki Giovanni

37. “I am honest; I try to be truthful. I like people and wish us well. We are not always deserving of our own best wishes.” – Nikki Giovanni

38. “If I could come back as anything – I’d be a bird, first, but definitely the command key is my second choice.” – Nikki Giovanni

39. “I like what they’re doing. I think they’re doing a good job, and I know that a lot of people are upset by them. These are great young men and women, and they’re bold, and they are saying to America, “Something’s going to change.” I’m very proud of them.” – Nikki Giovanni

40. “Just as nature abhors a vacuum, humans resist change. Change will occur; vacuums will be filled.” – Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni quotes to inspire and teach

41. “We are all either wheels or connectors. Whichever we are we must find truth and balance, which is a bicycle. Trust and balance are also essential to true love.” – Nikki Giovanni

42. “My main strength as a young writer was that I had no fear of making mistakes. I knew I would and I knew I could and would learn from them.” – Nikki Giovanni

43. “We love because it’s the only true adventure” – Nikki Giovanni

44. “We write because we believe the human spirit cannot be tamed and should not be trained.”  – Nikki Giovanni

45. “You must invent your own games and teach us old ones how to play.”  – Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni quotes to inspire and teach

46. “Kevin Powell is pushing to bring, as he has so brilliantly done before, the voices of his generation: the concerns, the cares, the fears and the fearlessness.” – Nikki Giovanni

47. “Poetry and music are very good friends. Like mommies and daddies and strawberries and cream – they go together.” – Nikki Giovanni

48. “Don’t want to be near you for the thoughts we share but the words we never have to speak.” – Nikki Giovanni

49. “Everything will change. The only question is growing up or decaying.” – Nikki Giovanni

50. “Art is not for the cultivated taste. It is to cultivate taste.” – Nikki Giovanni

More Nikki Giovanni quotes and sayings

51. “If you’re a writer, the answer to everything is yes.”― Nikki Giovanni

52. “We cannot leave it to history as a discipline nor to sociology nor science nor economics to tell the story of our people.”― Nikki Giovanni

53. “I move on feeling and have learned to distrust those who don’t.”― Nikki Giovanni

54. “Why would there be a destination when life itself is a journey? You go not to get there but to be there.”― Nikki Giovanni

55. “VISIBILITY – You’ve got to find a way to make people know you’re there.”― Nikki Giovanni

56. “No matter what else is wrong in the world a book will take you away from it.”― Nikki Giovanni

57. “If I can’t do what I want to do, then my job is to not do what I want to do. It’s not the same thing, but it’s the best thing I can do.”― Nikki Giovanni

58. “I mine the human soul
For undiscovered strength.”― Nikki Giovanni

59. “Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts.”― Nikki Giovanni

60. “The problem with love is not what we feel but what we wish we felt when we began to feel we should feel something.”― Nikki Giovanni

61. “Black Poetry is not for Black People…it is for everybody.” – Nikki Giovanni

62. “And mostly we need to pick and choose Who we listen to so we follow our own path Yeah we need to follow our own path.” – Nikki Giovanni

63. “Of the many foundations upon which humans rest, words are probably the most solid.” – Nikki Giovanni

Did you enjoy these Nikki Giovanni quotes?

One of the world’s most well-known American poets, Nikki Giovanni has helped to define the African-American voice.

She has always insisted on presenting the truth as she sees it and remains committed as ever to the fight for civil rights and equality.

Giovanni inspires readers and audiences worldwide.

Hopefully, the above quotes have inspired you to make a positive difference in your life and the lives of others.

Did you enjoy these Nikki Giovanni quotes?

Which of the quotes was your favorite?

Tell us in the comment section below.

We would love to hear all about it.

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  1. Quanda R. Graves (Until)

    February 27, 2019 at 12:39 PM

    I loved that you decided to do this article about Nikki and her inspiring words. I always felt as though her and I were synonymous of each other. As a lot if her quotes I live by, #8 #9 #5 #13 and more of course. I met her in the year of 2007 and I was in the process of getting ready to publish my book. So I asked her a question. Should I go to school to finish my book or just publish it. Nikki, “Publish it. See where it takes you.” Seven years later I did, and sent her a copy. She said liked what I was doing. She also said she liked my pen name, that it was hopeful. She is inspiring, motivating and just a beautiful human being. ~Until

  2. Virginia

    February 26, 2019 at 2:34 PM

    Yes I loved the quotes. It teaches me to pick up myself and start writing. She is a gift that I treasure.

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