What makes the poem "Still I Rise" inspiring and timeless?

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Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise” inspires modern readers just as much today as it did when it was published in 1978. Many aspects of life in America have improved since this poem was written. There have been important advances in supporting women’s rights, promoting racial equality, and advancing rights of the LGBT community. However, all it takes is browsing news headlines to see that problems stemming from hate still exist. Whether on a personal or societal level, Angelou’s words still inspire readers to rise above hate, pain, lies, and fear.

Most people can relate to having been misrepresented like the speaker of the poem who confronts those who write her “down in history with your bitter, twisted lies.” Most people have confronted hatefulness, feeling that someone could “shoot me with your words” or “cut me with your eyes.” Most people have painful memories they would like to shed, “Up from a past that’s rooted in pain.”

Despite the negative circumstances the speaker struggles with, the poem has a bold, uplifting tone. The speaker is determined to rise above this pain, repeating that phrase eleven times in the course of the poem. These repeated words at the end of the poem give the impression that the speaker will continue rising, despite whatever new obstacles may come. This poem shares an empowering message for readers today and into the future.

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What do you like about the poem "Still I Rise"?

You are being asked to state your opinion about what you like about Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.” This means you will have to do a close reading of the poem before deciding if it has meaning to you due to the subject matter, or if you enjoy the imagery, or if you find the way it rhymes pleasing. Does the poem cause you to have an emotional response?

I find Angelou’s technique of questioning the reader, while creating vivid images, pleasing. Her questions create a challenge to the reader, which is thought-provoking.

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.

Angelou’s images and allusions cause me to think about the feelings of pride the narrator is demonstrating even though she is living a life of oppression. There is a lyrical quality to the words as they paint the picture of a proud woman walking with a swagger, instead of being downtrodden, in the face of adversity. As the words challenge the reader, they are empowering. Angelou continues the questioning throughout the poem until she uses repetition at the end to create a point of emphasis.

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

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