Maya Angelou (1928 - 2014) was an American authoress and poet, who was extremely productive in many genres, such as autobiographies, essays, poetry, plays, movies and television shows.
Angelou was active in the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s, had many honorary doctoral degrees, and since 1982, she had held a professorship in American Studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.
"Still I Rise"
Her well-known poem "Still I Rise" reflects her African American heritage.
Before reading the poem check the meaning of the following words: sassiness, gloom, haughtiness
Read the poem here and then follow it again as you listen to Maya Angelou reciting it.
Discuss and Analyse
- Who is speaking in the poem?
- Who is he/she addressing?
- Describe the tone of the poem? What is the attitude of the speaker?
- How does the speaker describe herself. List the words she uses. What impression do these give of the speaker?
- The speaker compares her behaviour to material riches like oil wells etc. Why does she choose this comparison do you think? What does it tells us about the person/s she is addressing?
- What theme/s do you find in the poem?
- Consider the poem's title: "Still I Rise". What does it convey?
- Comment on the repititions in the poem. Why are they important?
- There are a number of similes and metaphors in the poem. What does she compare herself to? What do they symbolise? (Metaphors and Similes)
- She invites the reader to: "shoot me with your words", "cut me with your eyes", "kill me with your hatefulness". What do these statements imply?
Rhythm and Rhyme
- Where in the poem does the rhythm change? Why is this change significant?
- Describe the rhyme pattern in the poem.
- Maya Angelou said:
"All my work, my life, everything I do is about survival, not just bare, awful, plodding survival, but survival with grace and faith. While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated"
How does this fit with the message in the poem?
- Is this a typical poem about African Americans or could it also describe other peoples who have been oppressed? Why / why not?
- Search for information about Maya Angelou's life and family background. Do you find any resemblance to the character of the person speaking in the poem?
- Search for a picture on the Internet that you think fits the speaker in the poem.
- Maya Angelou died recently and she was mourned by people all over the world. On Facebook and Twitter the news of her death got a lot of attention. Why do you think she is mourned by so many people?
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