“Still I Rise”

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
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.

Maya Angelou

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

Sources:

“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

6 thoughts on ““Still I Rise”

  1. What a powerful poem. And such a beautiful reading of it by Serena. And great questions to ponder! I’ve often wondered how I kept on going after my dear little Evan passed away. I certainly had no desire to continue living. I was completely deflated and instead of rising I was sinking, sinking, sinking — into the earth, hoping to disappear. But lo and behold my heart kept beating, my blood kept flowing, my lungs kept breathing and I just kept on rising every morning. I did not have a choice or say in the matter. I think over time I’ve come to realize and accept that we all are connected—all people, all living things, all things that have transitioned from one energy form to another (I don’t like the word death. It sounds too final.). We are one symbiotic organism, so to speak, and when one of the infinite elements of this organism is down, or in distress, or transitioning, the collective organism directs its energy to heal those wounds and continues on, ad infinitum, though ever in a slightly different and (one can only hope) stronger form…..

    Like

    1. ❤ ❤
       {{Gary}} (hugs)

      Thanks for sharing this, Gary. I don't know how you kept rising either after losing Evan, but I'm so glad you did. I can see how this poem would strongly (loudly?) resonate. The symbiotic organism you describe is beautiful and reminds me of the cells in the human body, and how they sense each other and come to the aid of each other when needed. Interconnected for sure! xo

      Like

  2. Patti,
    You are asking us some big questions and I’m glad that you do. I loved the idea of the Black ocean and its power.

    Perhaps there is something to the relentlessness of waves (i.e., we go on) and ocean is changes its shape too. So we can remind ourselves that we may feel differently tomorrow. Of course, there is more meaning than what I can convey as it comes from and speaks of a Black woman poet and read by a powerful, Black woman who is loved but also harshly and unduly scorned.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Goosebumps indeed! I have been reading this poem on and off these past few months. A much needed reminder of human resilience. These lines get me:

    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.

    So powerful.

    When one of my close friends was going through a hard time, she asked for a “survival jar” withpersonal notes from friends. She would open it and read a note or two to get her spirits high again. I think this poem is making it into my jar.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Love the idea of a “survival jar!”

      Like

  4. I needed this reminder. I feel so frustrated trying to logically tell others why they need to vote for Biden

    Liked by 2 people

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