This poem was suggested by Mahesh Mali @Awesomengers. He is an amazing writer and poet who posts both poems and articles. Do check out his blog!
This poem was also suggested by Nathi@Wayward Scribbles. Make sure you check out her blog as well!
ABOUT THE POET:
Born in 1928, Maya Angelou was an American Civil Rights Activist and writer who lived through some of the worst oppression and inequality for African American people. She is is best known for her empowering poems that aim at celebrating the female body and mind, specifically dedicated to Black women. She died on May 28, 2014.
(Image from Goodreads)
‘Still I Rise’ is Angelou’s proud declaration that she would not allow the the loathsome perception of certain people/societies to determine her own success. One of Angelou’s most acclaimed works, this poem was published in her third poetry collection And Still I Rise in 1978.
This poem is often considered an affirmation of the dignity and resilience of marginalized people in the face of persecution. As she often wrote about being black and black womanhood, this poem may be considered as a critique of anti-black racism. The writing style here, is often noted for its strong and determined tone, while addressing herself proudly. At the same time, an element of romantic fury and defiant emotions is present throughout the poem strengthening the themes of self-empowerment, perseverance, courage, pride and injustice. She seeks to empower herself as well as all those who are unsure of themselves and doubt their worth, beauty and strength.
She refers to herself in comparison to the moon and sun as they are affected by the tides. This conveys the idea that she has no other choice but to rise up out of her affliction. It is to be concluded from this reference that it is in her nature to rise up and stand against oppression just as it is the nature of the tides to respond to the pull of the moon.
“You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise”.
With the inclusion of things considered monetarily valuable like oil pumps and diamonds, the poetess is praising the inherent beauty and value of her body. These objects and sources of value are symbolically associated with the oppressed and marginalized speaker. The ocean symbolizes the her power, which is a force of its own that cannot be inhibited by human efforts. Apart from the above mentioned, phrases like ‘huts of history’s shame’ are among others that hold deep meaning. Here, she has described slavery as ‘history’s shame’.
“Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
Abound in poetic devices like anaphora, alliteration, enjambment, similes, etc. Still I Rise’ is a nine-stanza poem that’s separated into uneven sets of lines. The first seven stanzas contain four lines, known as quatrains, stanzas eight has six lines and the ninth has nine. The element of Repetition is also evident in the form of the repetition of the line ‘I rise’ which adds to the strength and passion in the poem.
This is a magnificent poem written by a remarkable person who has gone through so much in her own life. To write with so much authenticity and raw pride is often rare and that is one reason why this poem continues to be a declaration of self worth and pride for all.
Literary Devices and Poetic Devices
I learnt so much while writing about this poem. If you get time, please visit Maya Angelou’s Wikipedia page, her life story is indeed one that has to be read. Her inherent strength is evident throughout her life. Hope you had a fierce rush of pride while reading this poem!