Still I Rise by Maya Angelou: The Poem
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 back yard. 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. GCSE English Blended Poetry © Maya Angelou in whose name Copyright Clearance Center, Inc. has granted permission. © The Sheffield College, 2006 Exploring the Poem We are now going to explore ‘Still I Rise’ using the five aspects of poetry we looked at earlier.
Situation Viewpoint Ideas or themes Language and style Mood or atmosphere After reading ‘Still I Rise’ a couple of times, use the following questions to help explore your ideas about the poem. Situation What do you think Angelou might mean in the opening lines when she says that history tells lies about her? GCSE English Blended Poetry © The Sheffield College, 2006 In the closing lines, who is Maya Angelou referring to as her ‘ancestors’ and why is this important? Angelou repeats the words ‘I rise’ throughout the poem. What does she mean by this? GCSE English Blended Poetry The Sheffield College, 2006 Identity is an important idea in the poem. What impression do you get of Maya Angelou in the second, third, fifth and seventh verses? What impression of herself does Maya Angelou definitely not want to convey in the fourth verse? What impression does Maya Angelou leave us with at the end of the poem? GCSE English Blended Poetry © The Sheffield College, 2006 Viewpoint Who is ‘I’ in this poem? Who is ‘you’ in this poem? Ideas and Themes What themes do you see in the poem? GCSE English Blended Poetry © The Sheffield College, 2006 Language and Style
As you work through this section, you might want to refer to the Glossary, to read about some of the techniques discussed. Angelou uses a lot of natural imagery in the poem. List all the similes and metaphors which relate to nature that you can find in the poem. Imagery What points do you think Angelou is making in using this natural imagery? Comment on at least three images in detail. GCSE English Blended Poetry © The Sheffield College, 2006 Alliteration and Assonance Find as many examples of alliteration and assonance in the poem as you can. What effects do you think Angelou is hoping to achieve by her use of these techniques?
Rhythm and Rhyme Re-read the poem aloud or at least read it to yourself imagining how it would sound if you were reading it aloud. How do you think the rhythm and the rhyming of the poem affects your understanding of what Angelou is saying? Repetition What do you think Angelou is trying to achieve with the repetition in the poem? GCSE English Blended Poetry © The Sheffield College, 2006 Mood and Atmosphere How would you describe the mood or atmosphere of the poem? Does the mood change throughout the poem? GCSE English Blended Poetry © The Sheffield College, 2006