An African woman resilient and rising from the dust

Maya Angelou – Still I Rise

by Chinyere Nwosu

August 1, 2021

About Maya Angelou

If you are a poetry enthusiast, you would have come across different works by Maya Angelou. My best poems by this author include –

  • Still I Rise
  • Touched By An Angel
  • Caged Bird

Her works bear the same characteristic confidence and richness in using figurative language in passing a message.

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928 (poets.org).

She lived through the depression and came to international fame. Most of her works between the 1960s and 1990s are popular, and the poem – Still I Rise and her book – And Still I Rise – are often at the fore when you look up works by Maya Angelou. She died in 2014.

Maya Angelou

Still I Rise Won Awards

Maya Angelou’s And Still I Rise has won many awards. The poem – Still I Rise – is always at the fore. Some of the awards won by this work include the Peabody award 2017, the 2nd annual shorty social Good Awards, and Audience Award in AFI Docs, 2016. In the AFI Docs, the documentary made on Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise emerged the winner taking home the award, having won over 93 entries from 30 different countries.

The coordinators of the Peabody award described the work as “a love letter of hope, courage, and passion.” The poem speaks of struggles, dreams, aspirations, freedom, and hope. It gives us a glimpse of the author’s family, experiences, and achievements.

In the Shorty Social Good Awards, ‘Still I Rise’ was used to illustrate one of the biggest threats to humanity – rifts along cultural class and political lines. In the words of the entrants, ‘Still I Rise’ “is a piece that could carry that message in a respectful way.” The statement is a clear indicator of the artistry, wisdom, and understanding of human behaviour and struggles displayed in the use of words in this piece of poetry.

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Read Also:

Summary of the Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka

The Clod and the Pebble – William Blake

‘Still I Rise’ tells a story and inspires hope.

Andrew Spacy (2021), in his analysis of the poem, said that ‘Still I Rise’ is an empowering poem. “When read by victims of wrongdoing, it is a beacon of hope”. The poem is based on black oppression. It is a beautiful string of words that makes excellent use of figurative language – simile, metaphor, hyperbole – to pass its message. The message is loud and clear – no matter the cruelty, pain, or difficulty, the victim will rise. It is possible to go through adversity and overcome it. The voice points at the oppressor, someone who aspires to gain superiority by hurting the identity or beauty of the target.

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.

Nelson Mandela shared the message of emerging from oppression and becoming even more beautiful by reading this poem during his inauguration as South African President in 1994 after spending 27 years in prison. ‘Still I Rise’ is a call not to give in to oppression, bullying, etc. Maya Angelou repeated the phrase – ‘I rise’ throughout the poem. It is like a mantra that echoes the reality that things pass and better days come.

The rhyme scheme (ABCB, ABCC, AABB) gives the poem a unique rhythm that echoes throughout the poem. It helps you enjoy the imagery, feel the confidence in the voice, hear the echo of the words as they linger, and retain the message of hope that it leaves you.

Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise and Dealing with Trauma

If you are going through a tough time or the COVID’ 19 pandemics has affected you negatively, you can be encouraged in the words that things change. Having lived through the depression era and coming to international prominence, the author wrote with a clear understanding of adversity and its effects which remained evident in the black race around her. Seek help when needed, use positive affirmations, and practice healthy coping strategies.

 

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