Poetry Analysis Of ‘Still I Rise’ By Maya Angelou


This video of Serena Williams reading Maya Angelou’s inspiring poem, ‘Still I Rise’ is bound to leave you feeling all stirred and shaken – in a good way!

Watch two legends from the literary world and the tennis world make a powerful, soul-stirring and political statement via one of the most beautiful and effective medium there ever was – Poetry.

Two women who may come from diverse professional fields but share a common story of racial disparity and gender prejudices and rising above it all to stand today where they rightfully are – proud, accomplished and victorious like the glorious morning sun. Still I rise!

Here’s shedding some light on the background and underlying message of this poem, ‘Still I Rise’. A poem which has gone on to become a cult of sorts on racial discrimination, dreams, endurance, hope and victory! Maya Angelou speaks up for the minority.

In her case, as a black woman in America, speaking up and fighting against the many shadows of darkness that haunted her past and continued to haunt her till her death last year.

As a black, South American woman who grew up in a segregated community, she learnt early on in life to fight her own battles and not let the prejudices of the society cow her down or break down her spirit. The beauty of a woman lies not in her submissiveness as expected from the society but in her confidence, courage and phenomenal spirit. The nights of severe adversities and obstacles may be many but…. Still I rise!

Lending power to this already packed poem ‘Still I rise’ is the reigning Wimbledon women’s single champion Serena Williams. The timing and the protagonist couldn’t be any more appropriate.

Serena Williams has just created history being on par with Steffi Graf’s record of 22 grand slam titles. She also clinched her 7th Wimbledon title when she defeated Angelique Kerber in two consecutive straights sets (7-5, 6-3).

Rising up… against racism and violence
It’s not just the timing of her victory or her African American lineage that makes her the perfect protagonist of the poem. But also, the timing in relation to the growing police brutality and racial issues, lurking America as evidenced by the recent Dallas shootings.

Serena has been quite vociferous in her latest interviews and raised grave concerns over the growing violence against the African American community in her country.

Without a doubt, the poem is beautiful just as it is. It has the right blend of all the elements of love, pain, optimism, intellect, wisdom, hope, grace, gut, wit and humor, But it takes on a whole different level of perfection and packs on a far, greater punch when you hear the verses flowing out of Serena William’s soul – her voice, the intensity in her eyes, her raw grit and tenacity simply shine through this delightfully inspiring video.

‘You’ refers to the society at large. ‘I’ refers to the minority individual, here the black woman! She compares a woman’s body and soul to diamonds and urges women, to truly understand their self-worth, realize their inner potential and make their own destiny despite societal  limitations.


‘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.’

(This post was orginally published at Women’s Web – http://www.womensweb.in/2016/07/serena-williams-reading-maya-angelou/)

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Tina Sequeira
Tina Sequeira is a marketer and moonlighting writer. She is passionate about tech, creativity, and social justice—dabbling in and writing about the same.

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