‘Phenomenal Woman’ by Maya Angelou


Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou
Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

The poem Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou doesn’t really need any foreword or introduction. It does the work for itself- to ruffle something within you and your heart takes a leap! I write this nevertheless, as I can’t contain it.

In her eulogy to Angelou, the First Lady Michelle Obama referred to this poem saying the former ‘…celebrated black woman’s beauty like no one else‘. But I  think it doesn’t just confine itself to women of color; its for any woman who thinks she’s too short, too tall, too pale, too dark, too underweight, too over weight… Beauty is all about that Spirit within that shines forth transcending everything without. The poem encompasses all women: our grace, our power, our love.

The admiring mans eyes can make a woman feel she is the most beautiful woman there is, regardless of the fact that she meets the established beauty standards or not. Interestingly, Angelou does something similar:  she describes herself through the poem, but she makes you feel she’s actually describing you to the world (replace the Ime with ‘you‘, ‘my‘ with “your“, and ‘you‘ with “they“). It feels like she knows who you are deep down-that is the greatness in her love as a human being,

A lovely video that Maya Angelou talks of Love that liberates:

As regards the poem Phenomenal Woman, call me overemotional, but the first time as I read it, I choked halfway through as I heard in my mind Maya reciting the poem: that spark in her eyes, the music in the verses, the power in her charm.

Phenomenal Woman
 
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. 
 
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. 
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. 
 
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, “Phenomenal Woman” from And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Source: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou Random House Inc., 1994)

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