Maya Angelou summary

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.

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
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.

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. 


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