Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Still I Rise

Over the past few days there have been a couple of lines of poetry floating around inside my head, and while I was trying to work out where they were from ( turns out a~level Eng Lit ~ I'll share another time!), this caught my attention ...

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 upset 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 wonderously 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

I love the imagery within this poem, and even more, I've fallen for the spirit ~ the absolute confidence, the complete defiance of another's expectations.  Maya Angelou grew up in a different time, a different world even, but the message of complete self belief in the face of another's judgement hold just as true today as it did when she wrote it.  Instead of using her (undoubtedly hugely traumatic) past as an excuse for giving up, or a reason for self pity, she instead rose above it to lead a life packed with international literary acclaim as well as personal fulfillment.

The concept of truly regaining control over an aspect of one's own life is, and should always be, incredibly powerful.  Similar to that well trodden path of television teenage angst where the clever kid uses their brain to beat the bully into submission by using the very attribute which was picked upon in order to gain the upper hand is trul poetic justice.  To not only take back your sexuality but to positively glory in it demonstrates immense strength.

Language ~ so simple, so straightforward, and yet potentially holding so much power over each and every one of us.  Words lined up, one after another, like soldiers marching in rows or a solitary brush stroke in an old master stripped entirely of context.  Imbued with precious little meaning ... until you take two steps backwards.   Once you can see the majesty of the whole,  you can begin to appreciate how well each plays its part, how these individual soldiers contribute to the overarching objective.  Maya Angelou uses both language and rhythm to elicit an emotional response in the reader, particularly effective when you hear the words spoken aloud.  Even the punctuation contributes to the sense of grace, with well placed pauses highlighting the vivid imagery, and by facing the quasi~questioning within the verse the reader is invited (and encouraged) to join in that joyous sense of triumphant victory over violence and domination.

I love poetry, but rarely think to sit and read it ~ perhaps that's something I should try and get in the habit of doing, to give myself a little time and space to journey with some of the incredible writers who have chosen to use the medium of the written word along with  the fluid beauty of poetry to express themselves, and inspire all of us.  Any recommendations on where to start?

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