You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, But still, like dust, I’ll rise. You may trod me in the very dirt
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 backyard.You may shoot me with your words, You may kill me with your hatefulness, You may cut me with your eyes, But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?Does it come as a surpriseThat I dance like I’ve got diamondsAt the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shameI riseUp from a past that’s rooted in painI rise I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fearI riseI riseInto a daybreak that’s wondrously clearI am the dream and the hope of the slave.Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I rise I riseI rise.
-"Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou
It is not a surprise that I'm writing for Poem of the Week again. I promise this time around I won't bombard you with mountains of poetry to both read and listen to. I honestly had a different idea in mind when I set out to write this article (i.e. laughing at my old poems), but as circumstance would have it, my inspiration pulled me in a different direction. When I was a high school, I had a wall in my room that I called the "Wall of Quotes". It is pretty self explanatory, but it was essentially a wall in my room where I compiled all the words that touched my heart. This poem was a feature on the wall. I had honestly forgotten about it's existence until I began to hear one of the stanzas in a commercial and almost instinctively started reciting the poem along with the voice on the television. I quickly remembered how much I love this poem. As much as I love poetry, I am not very fond of analyzing it as a piece of written work. Of course, I appreciate the metaphors and the imagery Angelou creates in this piece. I love the way she equates her own rising to the rising of dust and even air. I love the rhythm of the first seven stanzas. I adore the way these stanzas flow so smoothly, especially when you read them out loud. I equally adore the way she takes away this rhythm in the last two stanzas as she discusses rising out of the social constructs that try to make her ashamed of her race and her ancestry. I love the way she trades in the rhythm for a continuous repetition of "I rise". I love how the change in the rhythm of the poem and the increasingly frequent repetition puts emphasis on the last two stanzas. I love the way the poem ends with three "I rise" as if the poem itself is elevating somehow. Even though this poem is a marvelous literary creation, I think the most amazing thing about the poem, and poetry in general, is the way you feel as you read it. It is such a condensed form of raw emotion. I judge whether poetry is "good" or not based on how deeply I connect with the emotions the writer has graciously chosen to display for us. There is something magical that happens to you when you read this poem out loud. Somehow, it becomes your mantra (even if you don't believe in those kinds of things). I found this poem when I was at a very low point in my life. When I read it for the first time, I felt myself rising with Maya Angelou. I feel like we are taught that we are supposed to love ourselves, but not too much. What does that mean? Society looks down upon us for having low self-esteem, but we are equally frowned at if we love ourselves too much. We are supposed to hate ourselves enough to be relatable, but love ourselves enough that we don't bother anyone else with our complaining. It is honestly very confusing. I feel like Maya Angelou laughs at this concept. The poem revolves around her mocking the people that hate her and try to bring her down. She retorts all the efforts to push her down by continuing to rise. I strive to have her confidence. Even now, I find the stanza vibrating in my memory:
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.And so I rise. I rise. I rise.