Please provide an analysis of the poem "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou. 

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Maya Angelou’s as a writer epitomizes the intellectual black woman. Her wit and wisdom find a home in her poetry.  The theme of never “giving up or in” to adversity typifies her view of the black woman rising above the expectations that were once so understated, something we find in her poem "Still I Rise." 


The tone of the poem implies strength and bitterness.  In addition, the optimism of the poet shines through as she knows that even if the worst happens and someone is down, she will rise again much like the Phoenix in Egyptian mythology. Angelou always interjects humor along with a sardonic attitude, which can be said to be a part of the persona of a black woman.


Her theme is addressed in the title of the poem “Still I Rise.” Nothing can keep the black woman from getting up from adversity and standing beautiful and strong. Angelou’s poem written in 1978 was prophetic.  Since the publication of the poem, there have been several black congresswomen.  We have had a black Secretary of State and United Nations ambassador. These women have risen to the highest places in the land.


The poem does have a rhyming pattern.  It does not follow any set form.  The vocabulary is forceful. Angelou uses dialogue and some black dialect.  The poem gives several scenarios that place a black woman or any woman in a compromising situation.  


She seems to speak to white civilization or white men. 

Speaking about the way that history perceives the black woman in a negative view; the poet says that she will rise out of the dust. 

The poem implies that black women are sassy.  Her attitude is one of arrogance, and she walks as though she is very rich.

Just like the natural world in which everyone knows what will happen, she will rise like the moon.

The poet lists several scenarios that this woman has faced.

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.

Well, do not expect it from the poet. She does not need anyone’s pity: It is shameful how the black people have been treated. But this person will rise about it. This strong black woman will rise like the ocean with its tides and waves swelling… no more fear. When the sun rises, the poet will rise with it. 

She will bring all of the traits and talents that her ancestors bestowed on her. The new black woman is the hope of the future. She will rise.

The poem provides a spirited guide for the young black woman to follow.  Nothing will keep a person down if she keeps on trying. Rising out of poverty, abuse, slavery---no one will keep these beautiful, elegant, sassy women from achieving their goals.