Maya Angelou: Phenomenal Woman

Hailed far and wide as a true Renaissance woman, Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was to my mind most gifted as a poet. She used subtlety, self-deprecating humor, and clever irony to tell stories and paint images in her poems that teem with vibrant life. 

Read any work by Angelou and you see her— her essence, her true self. She was a true phenomenon, and her words demanded that we take notice of her, as witnesses this poem:



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
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
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
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 of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.


© Maya Angelou, All Rights Reserved


What about you is phenomenal?  How do you distinguish yourself?  Are you physically beautiful?  Mentally gifted?  Artistically or musically talented?  Incredibly kind? 

Write a poem inspired by the one above (or another one of her works) that celebrates you as a person.  Don’t be modest!  As Angelou herself said, “I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.”  Blow your own horn.  I’ll post mine here too.  Let’s compare them.

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