Home » Just for Me » Reading Matters » Maya Angelou

I’m a rel­a­tive­ly recent­ly devo­tee of Maya Angelou’s poet­ry — I’d been mar­gin­al­ly aware of her for years, of course, but I heard Still I Rise on NPR and my inter­est was piqued. Then some­one post­ed Phe­nom­e­nal Woman to soc.support.fat-acceptance and I knew I had to know more of this incred­i­ble artist. 

Still I Rise


You may write me down in his­to­ry

With your bit­ter, twist­ed lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise. 


Does my sassi­ness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pump­ing in my liv­ing room. 


Just like moons and like suns,

With the cer­tain­ty of tides,

Just like hopes spring­ing high,

Still I’ll rise. 


Did you want to see me bro­ken?

Bowed head and low­ered eyes?

Shoul­ders falling down like teardrops.

Weak­ened by my soul­ful cries. 


Does my haugh­ti­ness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard

‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Dig­gin’ in my own back yard. 


You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hate­ful­ness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise. 


Does my sex­i­ness upset you?

Does it come as a sur­prise

That I dance like I’ve got dia­monds

At the meet­ing of my thighs? 


Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s root­ed in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leap­ing and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. 


Leav­ing behind nights of ter­ror and fear

I rise

Into a day­break that’s won­drous­ly clear

I rise

Bring­ing the gifts that my ances­tors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise. 

Phenomenal Woman


Pret­ty women won­der where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fash­ion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman

Phe­nom­e­nal­ly.

Phe­nom­e­nal woman,

That’s me. 


I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,

The fel­lows stand or

Fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of hon­ey bees.

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman

Phe­nom­e­nal­ly.

Phe­nom­e­nal woman,

That’s me. 


Men them­selves have won­dered

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mys­tery.

When I try to show them

They say they still can’t see.

I say,

It’s in the arch of my back,

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman

Phe­nom­e­nal­ly.

Phe­nom­e­nal woman,

That’s me. 


Now you under­stand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me pass­ing

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

the palm of my hand,

The need of my care,

‘Cause I’m a woman

Phe­nom­e­nal­ly.

Phe­nom­e­nal woman,

That’s me. 


And this last one I share with you in hon­or of my man: 

Refusal

Beloved,

In what oth­er lives or lands

Have I known your lips

Your Hands

Your Laugh­ter brave

Irrev­er­ent.

Those sweet excess­es that

I do adore.

What sure­ty is there

That we will meet again,

On oth­er worlds some

Future time undat­ed.

I defy my body’s haste.

With­out the promise

Of one more sweet encounter

I will not deign to die

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