Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
During my Africa Studies, I found a poem that made me do a research on its author. The poem is called Still I Rise, and it is written by Maya Angelou. This woman turned out to have a complicated life journey, but it didn’t prevent her from making an invaluable contribution to the civil rights’ movement of the African Americans. Marguerite Ann Johnson, which is her real name, was born in 1928, and in her born days, she has published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry. It’s hard to imagine, but before becoming a writer and a poet, she even had an experience of being a prostitute, night-club dancer and fry cook. She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and worked with Martin Luther King. This woman has become a spokesperson of black people and a defender of black culture. My goal in this paper is to demonstrate the power of Maya Angelou’s words by the analysis of her famous poem Still I Rise.
Still I Rise is a poem about African American life which “celebrates perseverance and determination” (“Motif: In Search Of a Theme” 1). In the poem, we meet several poetic devices which make “a rhythmic, enchanting declaration of strength” (“Motif: In Search Of a Theme” 1).
The repetition of “stillI rise” throughout the poem proves that no matter what happens, the author will always stand up and keep on fighting. Despite all the hardships, Maya Angelou is confident of her power and will to life.
We meet the example of the symbolism in the following lines: “’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells Pumping in my living room” and “’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines Diggin’ in my own backyard” (Angelou, 35). The images of gold mines and oil wells remind us of wealth, but it’s not connected with money. It’s obvious that the poet is self-confident.
We meet the example of allusion to slavery in the next column: “Out of the huts of history’s shame I rise Up from a past that’s rooted in pain I rise” (Angelou, 35). This allusion “clues us in to who the speaker is in this poem” (“Motif: In Search Of a Theme” 2). She is evidently a black woman with a shady past or she may just mention the dark times in the history of her nation.
In the next lines the author compares herself with “a black ocean”. This metaphor hints at both her skin color, and her power.
Throughout the poem, we meet the rhetorical questions addressing to someone unknown: “Does my sassiness upset you?”, “Why are you beset with gloom?” (Angelou, 35). They demonstrate the author’s rage towards the unknown “you” and add emotions to each stanza.
The message of the poem lies in hope no matter what. Maya Angelou went through the tough times for black women, but she endured all the difficulties and stayed strong, because she had a hope. “ she knows who she is, and knows that she can respond to racism in ways that preserve her dignity and her life, liberty, and property, and she knows – and demonstrates in addition – that she can respond by using the power of words” (Walker 85).
Angelou, Maya. And Still I Rise. New York: Random House, 1978. Print
“Motif: In Search Of a Theme.” Read 59.11 (2010): 18-19. Literary Reference Center. Web. 22 Mar. 2014.
Walker, Pierre A. “Racial Protest, Identity, Words, And Form In Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” College Literature 22.3 (1995): 91. Sociological Collection. Web. 22 Mar. 2014.