"Still I Rise

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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.

 1. 2. 3. 4.

poetry: Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”. you may work on discussion questions with a partner. Answer any THREE questions in paragraph form. How could you tell that the speaker is an African-American woman? Be sure to use stanzas 1, 8, and 9 to answer this question. List the similes to which the poet compares herself. Why do you think she uses these similes? To whom is the poet speaking? Note the last two lines of stanzas 2, 5, and 7. What do the last two lines of each of these stanzas have in common? Why do you think the poet uses that particular imagery?

This is a great poem to teach. First, it sounds great when read aloud. Then, look at the imagery. The speaker compares herself to all sorts of natural images (dust, air, moons, sun, ocean). What do these images have in common? The moon waxes and wanes, the sun rises and sets, the ocean waves rise and fall. How does that tie into the speaker’s conception of history and the title of the poem, “Still I Rise”? How about “dust” and “air”? How do these ephemeral images represent the resilience and constancy of black women’s spirit?

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. 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. 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?
I spent class discussion focused on comparing/contrasting stanzas 2, 5, and 7 (above). The parallelism should be clear. her “sassiness” is seen in her “walk”, her “haughtiness” is evident in her “laugh”, her “sexiness” is present in her “dance” and “at the meeting of [her] thighs”.

Now switch to looking at the spaces in which her positive qualities reside: “living room,” “back yard,” “meeting of my thighs.” Why not front yard? It’s because these are intensely private spaces. Now look at the third lines of stanzas 2, 5, and 7. First “oil,” then “gold,” then “diamonds.” These are all natural resources, listed in increasing value. What do these natural resources have in common? They are hidden beneath the earth, hidden from sight, and they have to be mined in order to be discovered. The same is true of black women’s natural resources (the sassiness, haughtiness, and sexiness). Their qualities are not evident to the casual observer; they are hidden in private spaces. Just as people must dig to discover the richness of black women, so must the reader dig to discover the hidden richness of the poem.