The Complete Collected Poems
What is it like to be a woman of colour with brilliant intellectual and linguistic power? Is it a blessing, is it a curse, is it both at the same time? Isn't it just being human, in the end? Maya Angelou's poems have accompanied my teaching for a very long time. Her direct, honest words fit any human rights discussions, any debates on racism and misogyny, any reflections on the distribution of wealth and power, privilege and entitlement. Her hopes and fears, her dreams and nightmares are the stuff that humans are made on. She gives everyday life an artistically powerful voice, speaking loudly and confidently from the corner of society that unfortunately still remains invisible or indifferent to those in power.But Maya Angelou is more than just a writer speaking for those without words of their own. She celebrates love, anger, sadness, community and loneliness from the perspective of individual experience, putting a specific, unique person in focus rather than an underprivileged group. She finds beauty in self-confidence rather than prettiness, in effort rather than accomplishment, in dreams rather than status. Hers is a world that CAN BE - if you believe in yourself.I will let her speak for herself, and hope her words help those of us who turned out a bit shy, or short, or insecure, or invisible, or overlooked, to grow an inch while reading:"Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's sizeBut when I start to tell them,They think I'm telling lies.I say,It's in the reach of my armsThe span of my hips,The stride of my step,The curl of my lips.I'm a womanPhenomenally.Phenomenal woman,That's me.I walk into a roomJust as cool as you please,And to a man,The fellows stand orFall 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 womanPhenomenally.Phenomenal woman,That's me.Men themselves have wonderedWhat they see in me.They try so muchBut they can't touchMy inner mystery.When I try to show themThey 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 womanPhenomenally.Phenomenal woman,That's me.Now you understandJust why my head's not bowed.I don't shout or jump aboutOr have to talk real loud.When you see me passingIt 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 of my care,'Cause I'm a womanPhenomenally.Phenomenal woman,That's me."That's her. She's phenomenal.