Excerpts from the Academy of Achievement’s interview with Maya Angelou on January 22, 1997, at High Point, North Carolina (www.achievemt.org/auto doc/page/ang0int-8) , with full text of Angelou’s poem from Famous Inspirational Poem (www.familyfriendpoems.com):
Is there any one poem or verse that you’ve used to sustain you through challenges or adversities or difficulties? Well, yes. Some of them are mine, of course. “And Still I Rise,” which is a poem of mine that is very popular in the country. And a number of people use it. A lot of black people and a lot of white people use it.
Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiest 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 back yard.
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.
So there is that poem, and it goes on. And then, a poem just for women, which is called “Phenomenal Women,” and I love the poem. I wrote it for black women, and white women, and Chinese women, and Japanese women, and Jewish women. I wrote it for Native American women, Aleut, Eskimo ladies. I wrote it for all women. Very fat women, very thin, pretty, plain. Now, I know men are phenomenal, but they have to write their own poem.
Photo credits (top to bottom):
Regina A. Williams in Nina Simone: Four Women by Petronella J. Ytsma; scenes from The House on Mango Street, The Liar and A Raisin in the Sun by Connie Shaver; student matinee audience; The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer and Flower Drum Song by Petronella J. Ytsma
Current and Upcoming Productions:
A Raisin in the Sun, October 28-November 20 (tickets also available for purchase to Student Matinees November 1-December 22), Andy Boss Thrust Stage
The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer, December 2-31, Proscenium Stage
Flower Drum Song, January 20-February 19, Proscenium Stage
Nina Simone: Four Women, February 7-26, Andy Boss Thrust Stage