The Phenomenal Creations of Maya Angelou

When people think of poems people usually think they're two-sided. However, Maya Angelou was different; she talked about events that happened in her life whether it was sad or happy.  Maya Angelou was inspirational and her poems gave insight to that. She is known for having a great voice in literature and also giving details of what is happening in the poem.  Her best known piece is “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” describing her life and encounters with southern racism and her prepubescent rape by her mother’s lover.

Through Angelou’s story “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” we observe what Angelou goes through as a child, which was her love of family, insecurities, church, school, and visiting her mother.  As the story goes on to talk about the things she has as a child, it also describes when Angelou went to visit her mother.  While Angelou was visiting her mom, she was unexpectedly raped by her mother’s friend.  Now this took a bad turn when Angelou’s uncles decide to handle the situation violently, which ended up with someone dying.  This left Angelou silent for a while. However, “Angelou’s autobiography,” I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” is a poignant and poetic account of the author's life up until age 17.  Named for the caged-bird image that Lawrence Dunbar used in his poem "Sympathy," the book honestly reveals the cruelty, indignity, and injustice that confined African Americans in the 1930s and '40s -- the cage -- but also celebrates black people's spirit, humor, and courage. Reading Dunbar's poem may offer further insight into this book.”  Maya Angelou’s poem “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” has opened eyes to many readers, because it helps the audience what she has gone through as a child.  

Leading on to Angelou’s next poem which is, “Phenomenal Women.”, she wants women to feel comfortable in their own skin and confident in who they are.  She wants women to ignore what other people have to say, and embrace their insecurities instead, even if they’re not "built to suit a fashion model’s size."  She goes on to persuade her audience into listening to her "secret" in understanding her own "inner beauty. “ A woman's unique traits are what define her and this poem is designed to give women confidence, especially through the use of pattern so that by the end of the poem, each and every woman is convinced that she is, in fact, that  "Phenomenal woman… That's me."  Since the poem is written in first person, readers should put themselves in her place and understand the message that she was trying to send to her audience.  Because when Angelou wrote this, she was still dealing with things in her past and just felt like this poem would keep her positive, motivated  and  remind her who she is.  However Daniel J. Flynn goes on to comment on Angelou’s poem,” Flynn calls her “an author more revered than read,” and that gets to the heart of the Angelou phenomenon.  I will give her credit, as Flynn does, for playing a role very well.  That role was as a victim who rose beyond her victimhood to become an icon.  But an icon of victimhood as badge of honor, cultivating a voice, a manner, a persona that embodied dignity, thereby triggering waves of adulation from those who, out of guilt or hope, devoutly wished her to be a giant, so that all who have been a dealt a bad hand at birth could similarly rise and find dignity.  She gave the suckers what they wanted.”

Another great poem that Maya Angelou wrote was, “Still I Rise”, in this poem, Maya Angelou describes how she feels about the opposing race beating on blacks and making them feel worthless.  She describes in the poem how’ll she will stand her ground and speak her mind on the situation. However, she doesn’t just do it for herself, she’s doing for all the African Americans. The poem itself is personal, because she goes on to talk about the cruel beatings and mistreatment that the blacks have went through, and that she will not stand for that; she will rise. She quotes “You may write me down in history” “With your bitter eyes.” She’s transforming her writing, one of the most important means of domination, into an instrument of freedom. The poem does not begin by emphasizing physical violence. Instead, it begins by emphasizing the ways the wrong kinds of writing can imprison the minds of both oppressors and the oppressed.  “I rise. I rise. I rise.” The closing words of Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” resonate deeply after the poignant content of the poem has had time to sink in.  From start to finish, “Still I Rise” gives a message of enduring legacy beginning when the African American race was enslaved to their generation.  Throughout the work, Angelou asks rhetorical questions to those who view her as overly provocative and downright offensive.  She states quite clearly that she is the way she is because she has pride.  There is no one and nothing that is going to get her to relinquish those traits that she sees as invaluable to her personality.  She and others like are the legacy of African Americans everywhere.” “The start of the poem states that history may not remember her for what she stood for.  She was very controversial at the time that “Still I Rise” was published.  1978 held innumerable challenges for anyone who spoke out against the mistreatment of Blacks nationwide.  The Civil Rights movement had been over for years but equality was still a dream.  People like Maya Angelou were treated terribly, as outlined in her poem.  She states that she and her race were treated in such a way because there was a social norm that said that all Blacks were second class to Whites.  They were to speak with humility and so for someone to act in such a way as Maya did it was seen as taboo and offensive.” This poem says tells a story of angry black woman standing up for what she believes in; and is wanting others to feel what she is feeling.

All three of these stories represent an important event in Maya Angelou’s life. From her being raped by her mother’s friend, to telling women to be strong and love themselves, to her even speaking her mind. Maya Angelou is a strong woman and great poet, she inspires others to write because her poems help people understand what she has been through. Maya Angelou is a symbol; she rises to become a point of consciousness for African-American people, especially black women seeking to get through masculine prejudice, in addition to whites' hatred of blacks and blacks' lack of power. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has become one of her best known poems, because it tells us about Maya Angelou’s life story. That’s why Maya Angelou is known for being a creative poet. Angelou's poetry and screenplays are less well known, and for the most part critics have not been generous toward them. Some have referred to her poetry as "too simple" and suggested that it is unworthy of inclusion in the canon of American poetry. But Angelou's audience isn't affected by what those critics have to say about her work. Angelou's response to those critics may be, "If that canon, that body of literature written largely by white men, acknowledges my work, then well and good. I accept this honor."