Maya Angelou is an American author and poet who was born April 4th 1928. She is best known for her series of autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. Her first autobiography was called, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), which tells of her life up to the age of seventeen, and brought her international recognition and acclaim.  As a result she is now an inspirational black figure. Many of her poems deal with racism and her cultural heritage. So, as it is Black History month, I would like to share with you my favourite Maya Angelou poem called ‘Still I rise’ which is about her rising above racial discrimination,  showing she is equal to others and is proud of who she is.

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.

I love this poem as it covers a serious matter (racism), but is somehow humorous in places.  For example she uses similes like ‘’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines, Diggin’ in my own back yard’.  This humour helps portray that racism can’t touch her in a sense because she is confident in who she is and doesn’t want to dwell on the past. Maya Angelou also uses rhyming to make the poem flow and make it a joy to read. Lastly, her repetition of ‘I rise’ is to emphasise how she has overcome prejudice.

For more information about Maya Angelou and her books and poems visit http://mayaangelou.com/.

 *****

Grace Revill

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