Whoever fights injustice and prejudice should take a look at Maya Angelou’s poem “Stil I rise.” In this poem, she showed us there is always something that needs to be fought for. This is one of her most popular poems.
Maya Angelou (born as Marguerite Annie Johnson) was born on 4 April 1928 in Saint Louis (Missouri, US). She made her debut with the novel “I know why caged the caged bird sings” (1969). In this book, she described her experiences as a girl in a segregated part of the United States and later in California. She had a rough childhood and was raped in this period. In her works (books, poems) she referred often to these dark times.
She was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 with her poetry collection Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie” (1971). In that year, the prize went to James Wright for his “Collected Poems.” A long list of her honours is on this Wikipedia page.
Although she is known for her writing, she was so much more than that. She was also a singer, dancer, civil rights activist and professor American Studies at the Winston-Salem University.
At the inauguration of President Bill Clinton (1993), she recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning.” It was a big wish of Clinton that Angelou would be there to recite the poem. She starred in a video of the United States Department of State about the life of Nelson Mandela. She read her poem “His day is gone” on behalf of the American people.
After a long life, with so many highlights, Angelou died on 28 May 2014.
About “Still I Rise”
When you take a look at the news items that ‘made’ 1976, it’s easy to understand why Angelou wrote down her words. At the time she felt she needed to protest against all the wrongdoings. The list was so long. Because she doesn’t mention any of them concerning the news events of that year, it is a poem that is still applicable. That is why this poem is one of the most popular poems written by her.
This world we live in is often dominated by injustice and prejudice. Something that, according to Angelou, you can only resist. So that things will change one day. But to see this day come or arrive, we must never stop hoping. Even when the days are dark.
This poem reads like a hymn. Something you want to speak out loud. There is nothing wrong with this. If you use these words with the right intentions, you can!
This poem holds the almost same title as the book it’s in; “And Still I Rise” (1978).
Still I Rise
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
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.
— Maya Angelou