Polarization, pandemic, the planet. What’s next? Fellow reader Mary Zoll nailed it with her recent 6-word memoir. It feels like the hits keep coming these days as we add the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on top of the rest. When coping reserves are low, and it feels like you’re hitting the wall, sometimes a powerful resiliency poem like Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” can help.
Watch this moving video of Serena Williams reading “Still I Rise” before you read the full poem below. Expect goosebumps.
Still I Rise
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
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Some questions for reflection:
Is there a particular stanza in “Still I Rise” that struck you? Which one and why?
There’s a lot of rich imagery in “Still I Rise.” Is there a certain image or person that comes to mind when you think of resiliency? For example:
How we stay resilient and ride out a storm varies for each of us. Maybe you think of a line or two from a different poem like “The Guest House” or “The Cure” that we’ve read previously. Or perhaps dancing to an upbeat song like Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” does the trick. (Poet Tracy K. Smith says pop songs are the first responders for a new wound.) How do you keep going when you want to quit? What helps you recover when things don’t turn out as you hoped?
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, the encountering may be the very experience which creates the vitality and the power to endure.”Maya Angelou
“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou from And Still I Rise: A Book of Poems, 1978. Copyrighted material used for educational or therapeutic purposes.
Photo: Maya Angelou from FET Phase English Resource