If you count the poem's title, the words "I rise" or "I'll rise" are repeated eleven times in this poem. That gives the reader a clear indication that "rising" is the main theme of this great poem. These words convey a message of hope, of victory over oppression, and of certainty of prevailing over one's problems.
The first stanza makes it clear that Angelou is speaking on behalf of the African American community. This is made apparent by the reference to being "[written] down in history" with "bitter twisted lies." The last line of this stanza assures the reader that as part of this community, the poet will not remain oppressed but will rather rise.
With every utterance of this phrase throughout this great poem, a sense of hope and strength is built upon. It is made clear that rising will take place in spite of harsh words, hateful looks, and persecution.
The refrain of "I rise" gets more and more powerful as we reach the end of the poem, creating a crescendo that drives home Angelou's point, which is that, as an African American woman, she is strong, and she will not be dragged down by events of the past or attitudes of the present.
The repetition of these words creates not only meaning but also emotion, as the reader is given a sense of how strongly the poet feels about rising up in the face of persecution and negativity. In a nutshell, therefore, the words "I rise" convey hope, tenacity, and determination.