Still I Rise
‘And Still I Rise’ is a collection of 32 poems divided into three parts. The first part was titled ‘Touch Me, Life, Not Softly’, the second part was titled ‘Travelling’ and the third part was ‘And Still I Rise’. The book was published in 1978. The poem ‘Still I Rise’ is one of the most popular poems of Maya Angelou. It has become a kind of anthem, a hope for the downtrodden and oppressed.
About the Poet
Maya Angelou was born on Aril 4, 1928 and was christened Marguerite Annie Johnson. She had to face traumatic experiences in her childhood which shocked Maya into being quiet, not talking to anyone. It was during this time that she read many books and was inspired to read. Her grandmother was a great influence in her life for she was a strong woman. Maya Angelou struggled very hard early in life but later became a beacon of hope for the African American community. She was a writer, social activist, had a career in films and television and served on two presidential committees, for Gerald Ford in 1975 and for Jimmy Carter in 1977. Maya Angelou was found dead in her apartments on May 28th, 2014. She was 86.
‘Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou is like an anthem for victims of wrongdoing. The whole poem is spiteful about those who pull people down and challenges them to defeat her. She says ‘bitter, twisted lies’ might be written about her or she might be crushed like dirt but she would rise like dust. She feels that others are quite upset that she is so lively for she walks around as if she has oil wells in her drawing room. Her hopes rise like the certainty of rising of moon and the sun and the tides with it. Then she goes on the offensive asking if people wanted her to be ‘broken’, with ‘bowed head’, ‘lowered eyes’ and slouched shoulders and cry in her voice. She questions if her ‘haughtiness offends’ the people. She says, ‘Don’t you take it awful hard’ because she was going to laugh as if she had ‘gold mines’ in her backyard. The poet again throws a challenge at her detractors. She says ‘shoot her with words’, ‘cut her with eyes’ or even kill her with hatefulness, she would still rise ‘like air’. She demands to know if her sexiness upsets them or comes as surprise. She was going to dance as if she got diamonds at the meeting of her‘thighs’.
The last few lines are the lines that infuse self-pride in the African American community. Angelou vows that she would rise from the shame history had thrust upon her. She would rise from the past that was ‘rooted in pain’. She would rise ‘Leaving behind nights of terror and fear’ into the ‘daybreak which was going to be clear. She would swell and leap with the tide and she was going to be the ‘dream and the hope of the slave’.
The poem ‘Still I Rise’ is a poem that has 43 lines split into seven quatrains and the last two stanzas do not follow this pattern and the phrase ‘I rise’ is repeated so many times like a mantra creating a sense of hope for the marginalised. The rhyme scheme in the quatrains is ABCB. In the last two stanzas it is ABCC and AABB respectively and the common phrase repeated is ‘I Rise’. Natural imagery is created with the words moons, suns, tides and black ocean. The words ‘clear daybreak and the ancestral gifts’ instils faith that soon everything is going to be fine. Similes are used in the poem. Some of them are
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
The theme of this poem is about confidence and self-respect. However there is nothing soft about the poem, the poet is aggressive and it is highlighted with the active verbs like ‘kill, shoot, and cut’. The poem ‘Still I Rise’ is a poem where she declares that she would not allow the hate in the society determine her success.