“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou – Analysis and Poem

Synopsis

Maya Angelou once again writes about racism and slavery in this poem about rising above hatred. The poem simply speaks about people putting her down for various reasons and her getting back up. Essentially she is saying, “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” She goes on to say that she is proud of the body she was given by her ancestors.

Analysis

This poem is written in the rhyme scheme ABCB. Angelou is known for her poetry about African-American life, culture, and history. In this poem she once again speaks about African-American life, beauty, and hardships. Furthermore, the author’s use of single pronouns refers to black Americans more than it does the author herself.

The first stanza “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.” has dual meanings. The first meaning is that of a more personal nature. The author is speaking to an acquaintance (or possibly more) about how the person left her behind and is now bringing down her name. The author concludes by stating she will rise above the dirtiness of the acquaintance. As for a more general meaning, the author is speaking towards a collective “you” and history of man-kind lying about black Americans and their treatment.

The next two stanzas focus on the author (or black Americans) upsetting the acquaintance (or Americans) by being so lively. Of course, the author says, “Still I’ll rise.”

The next two stanzas asks the reader if they are upset about how she isn’t broken and sad but instead proud. She states that the reader shouldn’t take it so hard because she is laughing.

Following up with this is another stanza focusing on foul language being used against her (and other African-Americans). She writes that even though they hurt, she will rise above it.

“Does my sexiness upset you?” opens the next set of lines. She is basically just stating how sexy she thinks she is throughout these four lines.

The last two paragraphs speak about the history of African-Americans through slavery and how horrible it was. She follows it by stating how she is proud of her body and what she accomplished is what slaves dreamed of doing.

Keywords

  • ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells / Pumping in my living room. – She acts like she has a lot of money and pride.
  • With the certainty of tides – Tides are predictable and always happen at a given time.
  • ‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines / Diggin’ in my own backyard. – Like she doesn’t care because she has everything she will ever need.
  • You may shoot me with your words – Say bad things
  • You may cut me with your eyes – Look at me in an awful way
  • That I dance like I’ve got diamonds / At the meeting of my thighs? – Her worth and sexiness are great.
  • Out of the huts of history’s shame – All the evils that have happened to her race in the past
  • I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, / Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. – Like an ocean she is rising constantly
  • Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave – Her beauty and emotions given to her from her ancestors
  • I am the dream and the hope of the slave – She is everything that her ancestors wished they could be

Poem: “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 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.

Gary R. Hess

Gary was born and raised on a small farm in rural Kansas. Today, he is teaching various nationalities English in Southeast Asia.

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