Still I Rise By Maya Angelou English Literature Essay

Modified: 1st Jan 2015
Wordcount: 1174 words

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The site offers video, audio, readings, biographies of poets, essays to name a few. Poets.org also offers a link, for educators which give them ideas on how to teach poetry. It also contains a link which leads you to poetry events in your area.

This particular page of the site focuses on Black History Month and its African-American poets. It has links to featured videos, poets, poetry (both written and audio forms) and essays. There is also a link for the poetry store which features books, recordings and other items related to poetry. There were several links which caught my attention. I like Black History as well as poetry. One of the items was Poetic form which defined blues poem and the Bop. The blues poem usually describes certain themes such as struggle, despair and sex. The Bop consists of three stanzas of argumentative poetry.

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Another link which caught my attention was schools and movements such as Slam, black Arts Movement and Dark Room Collective. Slam is basically a competition wherein poets perform before an audience who acts as judges. The poets work is judged based on the manner and enthusiasm the poet presents his work. These types of poems are not meant to be read in silence but to be performed.

Black Arts Movement emerged in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement. The works were done in an effort to create politically engaged work that explored the African American cultural and historical experience. It was criticized by many as being “homophobic, anti-Semitic and racially exclusive”. The movement motivated new poets, writers and artists.

The Dark Room Collective is group focused on maintaining a practice of writing as a community of writers of color. Kevin Young, a poet we discussed last week, is a member of this group. I chose these three because I enjoy the art of the argument and the activism behind their work.

I proceeded to link the featured poets and chose Jericho Brown. The link leads to his brief biography and links to his works, his official website and readings. He is a very education man who graduated magna cum laude from Dillard University in 1998. He also won the 2009 American Book Award for her first collection of poetry. He currently teaches creative writing and is Assistant Professor of English at the University of San Diego.

The featured poem that caught my attention was Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”. I enjoy Ms. Angelou’s work and was pleased to see her work being featured. The poem reads as follows:

Still I Rise

By Maya Angelou

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 backyard.

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 hear 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.

Ms. Angelou’s creative passion for his work is demonstrated in her strong talent of weaving similes and hyperboles into her work. She uses similes to express the woman’s arrogance against those who hater her. For example, the use of similes in the first three stanzas, the woman compares herself to dust and air and how she rises.

“Still I Rise” is an African-American woman’s response to those who wish her hard and hate her. She starts off telling her aggressors that they can trample her into the dirt but just like dirt rises she too will rise. She portrays arrogance and tells her aggressor in the second stanza why they surround themselves with gloom because she walks around as if she were rich. In the third stanza which uses similes, the woman continues to stand her ground by telling her aggressor that she will rise just like the sun and moon.

In the fourth and fifth stanzas, the woman directly confronts the aggressor using accusatory dialogue. She accuses them of wanting her to be in despair. However, she refuses to allow them to bring her down. She goes on with asking if her arrogance bothers them. The woman reiterates her position in the sixth stanza:

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.

The woman goes on in the eighth and ninth stanzas that she finishes off by stating that she was born form her ancestors’ shame and a past of pain. She leaves behind the nights of fear and professes that she is the dream and hope of her people. No matter what anyone says or does, she will always rise above it.

Ms. Angelou uses imagery in the eighth stanza wherein she describes herself as

“a black ocean, leaping and wide

Welling and swelling I hear in the tide”

My interpretation would be that she absorbs and does not reflect any hostility towards other and can sustain her pride and position and will not yield.

Afterwards, I listened to one of the poems featured in audio. I chose “I’m a Fool to Love You” by Cornelius Eady. While listening, he speaks of his mother and how she ended up married with his father. The poem when read is sad. However, when you hear him reading it, the emotion is more vivid and I’m able to picture what his mother and father may have been like.

I have visited this site in the past when I used to write my poetry and read some of the poetry for inspiration. It is an excellent source for poets, students, teachers, or even readers who want to become immersed in the beauty and creativeness of poetry.

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