Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Poetry Month #15: Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou reading at Bill Clinton's inauguration
This is the poem for this disheartening time when a spec of virus has stopped the wheels of progress ... or turned us toward a new direction.

Angelou's poem is a paean to the human spirit. No matter how great the persecution, no matter how long the oppression, still we rise. In this deeply personal poem, she offers a promise of hope for all of us.

The incomparable Maya Angelou is one of the few poets who can share a poem with the passion of an old time politician or a spell binding preacher. Don't miss this opportunity to hear her reading this offering.

Click here to listen to "Still I Rise"
Angelou became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult, including fry cook, sex worker, nightclub dancer and performer, cast member of the opera Porgy and Bess, coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the decolonization of Africa.

She was an actress, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. In 1982, she was named the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. 
Her mother's boyfriend repeatedly raped her and when she told her brother about it, the man went to jail ... for one day ... and was later murdered. Angelou went mute for 5 years and said:
"I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone."
Fortunately for us, she did speak again and touched so many of us with her voice.

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 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 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.

1 comment:

  1. Maya Angelou is, and always will be, a favorite. Phenomenal woman.