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 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
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Date of Reading: October 20th
Main Theme: prejudice and racism
I think this poem is written in a very empowering tone, and it has to be, as it is the voice of many struggling African Americans during the 1900s. The anguish expressed in this poem most likely stems from the hard years of racism, prejudice, sharp societal distinctions, the loss of many close dance and activist friends, unsuccessful attempts at becoming a professional dancer (despite her great talent), and experiences with rape and prostitution. I feel that she is using an almost aggressive, or menacing tone with her repetition of “I rise”; determinedly directing a message to the people who wronged her, saying they cannot do anything to make her feel unvalued and unconfident because no matter what, she will continue to try. She goes on to describe how confident and determined she feels: “I walk like I’ve got oil wells / Pumping in my living room” and “I laugh like I’ve got gold mines / Diggin’ in my own back yard”, telling the readers that she knows her own value and she will show it to the world no matter how poorly others try to treat her. She is ultimately trying to give more hope and motivation to other people that were mistreated and submitted to prejudice like her, by setting an example for them to take charge of their own confidence and not let anyone else condition them into submittance. This is especially seen in one of the last lines of the poem: “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, / I am the dream and the hope of the slave.”
This poem strikes me as rather angry, as she is really vehemently making her point and almost shoving it onto her readers, but one can see that she feels a lot of love towards people of her culture and ethnicity, and she is just trying to make a good difference in the world.