I wrote this up for a class of mine. It’s about the poem “Phenomenal Woman.” It was just an initial reaction paper, hense it’s shortness.
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I walk into a room
Men themselves have wondered
Now you understand
I was first introduced to the works of Maya Angelou in about tenth grade. Our brand new high school teacher was infatuated with her work, and shared this love with all of her classes. I won’t come into contact with her work again so intimately until I began my brief career as a camp counselor at a bible camp. I stumbled across her work again while paging through a book of devotionals. “Phenomenal Woman” was listed in this book. I quickly learned how this was used as a motivational devotion for young teenage girls battling with body image. I heard stories from the other female counselors who had used this devotion before. Apparently, it moved the girls. Some even broke down in tears, feeling awful about the way they’ve treated their image.
This poem sends a pretty powerful message about the natural feminine. I decided to look at this poem a little more closely. With a little reading and research, I read up a little bit on feminine rhyme and masculine rhyme. It was brought to my attention that ‘Phenomenal possessed some qualities of masculine rhyme. I examined each of the lines. The rhymes can be found at the end of the line, each word ending on a stressed syllable.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
With these elements in tact, Maya still was able to achieve the femininity of this poem through word choice. The word ‘Phenomenal’ is repeated several times throughout the poem, providing the prominent ‘fem’ sound found in the word ‘female’ or ‘feminine.’ Providing the masculine – type rhyme helped to make each line delivery sharp, making a stronger point since the sound ended on a stressed syllable. Unfortunately, if the poem had followed the feminine rhyme scheme, the stress wouldn’t be present, thus not making insecure little girls cry about abandoning their images for something they felt was better.