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 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
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
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
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
Phe­nom­e­nal woman,
That’s me. 

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


In what oth­er lives or lands
Have I known your lips
Your Hands
Your Laugh­ter brave
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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