Maya Angelou

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Maya Angelou:

India Law Maya Angelou


Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928. She is a celebrated poet, actress, filmmaker, historian, novelist, and civil rights activist. She studied at San Francisco’s labor school for drama and dance. Angelou wrote several autobiographies, books of essays, and books of poetry. Her most notable works are I know why the Caged Bird Sings and On the Pulse of the Morning. Biography

The Mothering Blackness:

Angelou’s use of indentation in this poem shows that there are two subjects. It shows that the daughter is wanting to go home but she doesn’t know if her mother will accept her. For example, “She came home running…..she came down creeping.” Even though, the daughter feels this way, the mother is waiting for her to come home. “here to the black arms waiting…now to the warm heart waiting.” These two lines are a metaphor for the waiting mother. The Mothering Blackness She came home running back to the mothering blackness   deep in the smothering blackness white tears icicle gold plains of her face  She came home running She came down creeping here to the black arms waiting now to the warm heart waiting rime of alien dreams befrosts her rich brown face   She came down creeping She came home blameless black yet as Hagar’s daughter tall as was Sheba’s daughter threats of northern winds die on the desert’s face  She came home blameless  Maya Angelou The Mothering Blackness night personification Daughter finding a way home Mother waiting for the daughter metaphor for remembering the daughter Allusion Mother accepts the daughter

Awaking in New York:

Awaking in New York portrays the story of someone who feels unneeded in the busy streets of New York. Angelou uses personification and imagery in this poem. For example, “ Curtains forcing their will/   against the wind” portrays the strong wind blowing through the window so that the curtains cant hold themselves down, in return awakening the citizens of New York. Awaking in New York Curtains forcing their will  against the wind , children sleep, exchanging dreams with  seraphim. The city drags itself awake on  subway straps; and I, an alarm , awake as a  rumor of war, lie stretching into dawn,  unasked and unheeded.  Maya Angelou Awaking in New York Will of the morning Citizens of New York Imagery Internal clock Feels unneeded in The business of New York


Maya Angelou’s Kin is about the passing of her brother. Angelou is reminiscing about their days together and how they took care of each other. There is imagery more than anything else in the poem. For example, “I hear again the laughter/   Of children and see fireflies/   Bursting tiny explosions in/An Arkansas twilight .”   This shows the memories Angelou has of her brother as children. We were entwined in red rings   Of blood and loneliness before  The first snows fell Before muddy rivers seeded clouds  Above a virgin forest, and  Men ran naked, blue and black  Skinned into the warm embraces  Of Sheba, Eve and Lilith. I was your sister. You left me to force strangers   Into brother molds, exacting  Taxations they never Owed or could ever pay. You fought to die , thinking  In destruction lies the seed  Of birth . You may be right. I will remember silent walks in  Southern woods and long talks  In low voices Shielding meaning from the big ears  Of overcurious adults. You may be right.  Your slow return from Regions of terror and bloody Screams, races my heart. I hear again the laughter  Of children and see fireflies  Bursting tiny explosions in  An Arkansas twilight.  Kin bond imagery Beginning Of relationship Allusion/ Beginning of time Left on her own Metaphor/ death paves The way for new life memories Kept each Others secrets death hometown memories

Woman Work:

I've got the children to tend  The clothes to mend  The floor to mop  The food to shop  Then the chicken to fry  The baby to dry  I got company to feed  The garden to weed  I've got shirts to press  The tots to dress  The can to be cut  I gotta clean up this hut  Then see about the sick  And the cotton to pick.  Shine on me, sunshine  Rain on me, rain  Fall softly, dewdrops  And cool my brow again.  Woman Work Storm, blow me from here  With your fiercest wind  Let me float across the sky  'Til I can rest again.  Fall gently, snowflakes  Cover me with white  Cold icy kisses and  Let me rest tonight .  Sun, rain, curving sky  Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone  Star shine, moon glow  You're all that I can call my own. Maya Angelou Repetition For emphasis “ A woman’s Duties or work” change Personification/ New day Wishing for A break Wishing for A break/ repetition


Woman Work is about the struggle of a woman who does not have a lot. Angelou uses repetition to show how much ‘work’ that is actually done in the day. Many lines in the first stanza start with ‘the’ to emphasize the things that women have to do. Angelou used personification. For example , “ Storm, blow me from here/  With your fiercest wind /Let me float across the sky/  'Til I can rest again.” lets the audience know how exhausted the woman is.  Response..

California Prodigal:

Around and through these    Cold phantasmatalitie s ,    He walks, insisting To the languid air, Activity, music, A generosity of graces.   His lupin fields spurn old Deceit and agile poppies dance In golden riot.   Each day is Fulminant, exploding brightly    Under the gaze of his exquisite    Sires, frozen in the famed paint    Of dead masters. Audacious    Sunlight casts defiance At their feet.   The eye follows, the land Slips upward, creases down, forms    The gentle buttocks of a young    Giant. In the nestle, Old adobe bricks, washed of    Whitenes s, paled to umber, Await another century.   Star Jasmine and old vines Lay claim upon the ghosted land,    Then quiet pools whisper    Private childhood secrets.   Flush on inner cottage walls    Antiquitous faces, Used to the gelid breath Of old manors, glare disdainfully    Over breached time. California Prodigal California Prodigal is about an old house filled with memories. Maya Angelou uses imagery to tell the story of a giant with secrets. For example, “ Star Jasmine and old vines/Lay claim upon the ghosted land ,/    Then quiet pools whisper./   Private childhood secrets .” shows an abandoned house with numerous secrets made on the grounds. Decaying house New adventures to Be had imagery Growing old Giant holds secrets Imagery

Still I Rise:

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?   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?   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.


Angelou is speaking to her audience of oppressors about how she has overcome racism, criticism, sexism, and personal obstacles in her life. Maya Angelou used a myriad of symbolism to convey the meaning throughout “Still I Rise.” The main symbol throughout the poem is that of rising dust. For dust to rise, it must be unsettled from the ground in some way and then forms a dust cloud. But once the dust has been unsettled from the ground, it can leave and ‘rise’. This can be applied to Angelou’s overcome of the obstacles and her oppressors on the “ground” and rising above them all, unsettling and challenging the oppression.  This poem has many allusions relating to slavery. For example, a “past of pain,” and “gifts of ancestors,” however she is speaking in the present having overcome all of the hardships of her past. Still I Rise is about overcoming oppression with grace and pride, having no sympathy for the oppressors. Response


In “Men”, Angelou tells the story of a young girl noticing the characteristics of the opposite sex. The speaker is a woman looking back on her youth and the lessons learned. This Poem has many metaphors to make it clearer. “Watched behind the curtains” is a metaphor for virginity. “Shattered/It is your juice/That runs down their legs. Staining their shoes .” is a metaphor for losing your virginity and the experience of it. At the end of the poem, “But this time, I will simply/ Stand and watch.” is very important for that speaker has realized the vicious cycle that comes with sex and men .   When I was young, I used to  Watch behind the curtains  As men walked up and down the street. Wino men, old men.  Young men sharp as mustard.  See them. Men are always  Going somewhere.  They knew I was there. Fifteen  Years old and starving for them.  Under my window, they would pauses,  Their shoulders high like the  Breasts of a young girl,  Jacket tails slapping over  Those behinds,  Men.  One day they hold you in the  Palms of their hands, gentle, as if you  Were the last raw egg in the world. Then  They tighten up. Just a little. The  First squeeze is nice. A quick hug.  Soft into your defenselessness. A little  More. The hurt begins. Wrench out a  Smile that slides around the fear. When the  Air disappears,  Your mind pops, exploding fiercely, briefly,  Like the head of a kitchen match. Shattered.  Men It is your juice  That runs down their legs. Staining their shoes.  When the earth rights itself again,  And taste tries to return to the tongue,  Your body has slammed shut. Forever.  No keys exist.  Then the window draws full upon  Your mind. There, just beyond  The sway of curtains, men walk.  Knowing something.  Going someplace.  But this time, I will simply  Stand and watch.  Maybe

Phenomenal Woman:

Phenomenal woman, That’s me.   Men themselves have wondered    What they see in me. They try so much But they can’t touch My inner mystery. When I try to show them,    They say they still can’t see.    I say, It’s in the arch of my back,    The sun of my smile, The ride of my breasts, The grace of my style. I’m a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That’s me. Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size    But when I start to tell them, They think I’m telling lies. I say, It’s in the reach of my arms, The span of my hips,    The stride of my step,    The curl of my lips.    I’m a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman,    That’s me.   Phenomenal Woman I walk into a room Just as cool as you please,    And to a man, The fellows stand or Fall down on their knees.    Then they swarm around me, A hive of honey bees.    I say, It’s the fire in my eyes,    And the flash of my teeth,    The swing in my waist,    And the joy in my feet.    I’m a woman Phenomenally Now you understand Just why my head’s not bowed.    I don’t shout or jump about Or have to talk real loud.    When you see me passing, It ought to make you proud. I say, It’s in the click of my heels,    The bend of my hair,    the palm of my hand,    The need for my care.    ’Cause I’m a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That’s me.


Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” presents the theme that ‘Beauty is more than skin deep.’ She disapproves the distorted view of beauty, which emphasizes more on outer beauty than inner beauty. She argues that true beauty lies within and body language is the medium through which it is expressed . The poem opens up by saying “Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size” She lets us know from the beginning that it is not her physical features that make her attractive. Maya Angelou uses repetition in this poem to stress certain phrases.  An example of this is "I'm a woman / Phenomenally. / Phenomenal woman, / That's me."  Angelou also uses repetitiveness in the structure of her poem.  The persona says that pretty women ask her what her secret is and she tells them by listing her qualities.  She walks into a room and gathers attention and tells the reader why by listing her qualities.  She says that men even wonder why they are smitten by her and she tells them by listing her qualities. In the final stanza she tells the reader that now they should understand and be proud of her as well and again she lists personal qualities. Response

On the Pulse of the Morning:

Maya Angelou uses personification in this poem. On the Pulse of the Morning is about having an opportunity and grabbing it. The rock symbolizes America and how our ancestors has laid down the roots of the country. “the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully/….you may stand upon my back and face your distant destiny.” These line p ersonify the rock lending is support to help someone succeed. A Rock, A River, A Tree Hosts to species long since departed,    Marked the mastodon, The dinosaur, who left dried tokens    Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their hastening doom    Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.   But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,    Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no haven in my shadow, I will give you no hiding place down here. On the Pulse of the Morning You, created only a little lower than The angels, have crouched too long in    The bruising darkness Have lain too long Facedown in ignorance, Your mouths spilling words Armed for slaughter.   The Rock cries out to us today,    You may stand upon me,    But do not hide your face.

A Plagued Journey:

Maya Angelou describes how life has its moments of hope and darkness. Angelou uses personification and gives actions to ‘hope’ and ‘fear’. For example, “Gloom crawls around lapping lasciviously between my toes, at my ankles, and it sucks the strands of my hair. It forgives my heady fling with Hope. I am joined again into its greedy arms.” The use of personification benefits the poem’s descriptiveness . The overall theme of this poem is how everyone faces adversity and we have to be determined to breakthrough it. There is no warning rattle at the door  nor heavy feet to stomp the foyer boards.  Safe in the dark prison, I know that  light slides over the fingered work of a toothless  woman in Pakistan. Happy prints of an invisible time are illumined.  My mouth agape rejects the solid air and lungs hold. The invader takes  direction and seeps through the plaster walls.  It is at my chamber, entering  the keyhole, pushing through the padding of the door.  I cannot scream. A bone of fear clogs my throat. It is upon me. It is sunrise, with Hope its arrogant rider. My mind, formerly quiescent in its snug encasement, is strained….. A Plagued Journey to look upon their rapturous visages,  to let them enter even into me.  I am forced outside myself to mount the light and ride joined with Hope. Through all the bright hours  I cling to expectation, until  darkness comes to reclaim me as its own. Hope fades, day is gone  into its irredeemable place and I am thrown back into the familiar  bonds of disconsolation. Gloom crawls around lapping lasciviously between my toes, at my ankles,  and it sucks the strands of my  hair. It forgives my heady  fling with Hope. I am joined again into its greedy arms. 

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