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Friday Poem: Maya Angelou


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Next week on the 28th of May is the 4th anniversary of Maya Angelou’s death. In her memory, we delve into her extraordinary life as poet, director, activist, and woman. As well as taking a look at one of her most well-known poems.

Maya Angelou was a renowned poet, author and activist. She was Born in St. Louis, Missouri, as Marguerite Johnson in 1928. Angelou started her career singing, dancing and acting but is most well-known for her writing and poetry. She was also Hollywood’s first female black director, and as well as her creative work was known for her activism. She worked with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X for black rights and also fought hard for women’s rights. Another issue close to her hear was raising the moral standards of living in the United States.

Angelou was given many awards over her lifetime. She was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and in 2010, she was awarded by Barack Obama the highest civilian honor in the US.

Many of Angelou’s poems are autobiographical and are inspired by events that happened in her childhood and beyond. In her life, Angelou wrote a total of seven autobiographies. Her first titled “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” published in 1969, is her most well-known and was the most well-received, it was a benchmark for African American women, as she was one of the first to be able to discuss their personal lives publicly. A poem that encapsulates the messages that Angelou stood for and enforces feelings of hope and perseverance is the poem, Still I Rise. The poem shows that whatever life throws at us we will not be knocked down, it is a poem about self-respect and self-confidence. This poem speaks to me as a social comment on women’s rights and the African American Civil Rights movement in the United States at the time that Angelou wrote this poem.

 Maya Angelou died on the 28th of May 2014, aged 86.


Still I Rise - 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.

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