50 Matching Annotations
  1. Dec 2021
    1. Poem Mechanics Summary

      First published in 1978, the poem details the hopes of the speaker to abolish prejudices and injustice. It speaks to the struggle of the African American community. Major themes throughout the poem include courage, pride, and injustice. The speaker is proud of her identity and openly challenges those who want to hold her down. Rather than giving in to societal standards, Angelou illustrates a resilient and defiant spirit. Embodying the African American experience and feminism, she speaks to the harmful past of ancestors with the chains of slavery.

      Speaking from the perspective of her own and similar to that of many other African Americans, the autobiographical poem can be assumed that the setting is America in the 1960s following the era of segregation and discrimination as based on Angelou's life. It can also be classified as political poetry, feminist poetry, and revolutionary African American poetry. The poem is broken into nine total stanzas. The first seven are quatrains, the eighth stanza is made of six lines, and the final stanza is composed of eight lines. The rhyme scheme follows ABCB for the first seven stanzas, which tightly links the stanza. The eighth stanza follows a ABABCC rhyme scheme and the final stanza follows a ABABCCBBB rhyme. The underlying conflict intertwined throughout the poem lies between the speaker herself and the people of society who have oppressed her and her community in the past, as well as are offended by her success and achievements. The speaker foreshadows her rise to equality and continued efforts of the civil rights and feminist movements.

    2. General Historical Context

      During the Great Migration (1910–1920), African Americans by the thousands moved into industrial cities to find work and later to fill labor shortages produced by World War I. Though they continued to face exclusion and discrimination in employment, as well as segregation in schools and public accommodations, there were fewer barriers with voting for Northern African American men.

      In the 1920s there was a migration of Black Americans from the rural South to urban North which generated an African American cultural renaissance that was named after the popular NYC neighborhood Harlem but spread north and west. This movement marked the first time that mainstream publishers and critics paid attention to African American literature, music, art, and politics. This is where this revolutionary black poetry began. Unfortunately, emerging black writers relied heavily on white-owned publications and publishing houses. With the beginning of the Great Depression, the Harlem Renaissance died down as African American organizations became focused on the economic and political hardships this minority group now faced; however, the renaissance created opportunities and opened doors for a newfound Black culture around the world.

      Maya Angelou, born in 1928, lived through some of the worst oppression and inequality for African Americans. World War Two was occurring during her teenage years. Throughout the time of the war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt coined the term “Four Freedoms” which included freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear; despite being eager to fight, African Americans lacked these freedoms while residing in the US. Although slavery had been long abolished, Angelou saw its effects on society and the African American people which led to her inspirational writing and attributes to the civil rights movement.

      The civil rights movement - which occurred mainly during the 1950s and 1960s - was a social justice movement advocating for equal rights for the African American community. The effects of slavery still pursued post Civil War as African Americans continued to face discrimination, prejudice, violence, and racism. Mass demonstrations, televised racial violence, and the desegregation of segregated institutions alongside works of literature, art, and other cultural expressions as a part of the movement led to the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act involved the government much more in the civil rights sector as it eliminated tactics to limit voting, assured racial and religious minorities equal access to public accommodations, prohibited job discrimination, strengthened the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and initiated the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

      To explore this movement in more detail, visit the Civil Rights Movement informational site.

    3. I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide

      This metaphor unfolds how powerful the speaker is as it acts as a symbol of energy and immensity while hinting at the color of her skin. Comparing herself to a compelling force of nature, she portrays herself as strong and majestic going with the highs and lows of the "tide" or society's challenges.

    4. That I dance like I’ve got diamonds At the meeting of my thighs?

      The alliteration in this line - in which the words begin with the consonant "d" - make the line easy to read and flow nicely, thus suggesting that the speaker dances with joy and content. The simile conveys that she embraces herself, her body, and culture and that she will not change to fit a societal mold.

      Symbols of wealth are spread throughout the poem: gold mines, diamonds, and oil wells. This suggests that Angelou feels wealthy when surrounded by the elements of her community. She does not have an abundance of financial wealth and society does not view her or her community as wealthy and also restricts them from gaining wealth. s

    5. like I’ve got oil wells Pumping in my living room.

      This simile portrays Angelou's success with her previous poetry collections as she recognizes herself as an accomplished female black writer. Oil wells are a symbol of prosperity; the richest countries in the world were selling oil. Thus when reading this line, the reader should picture a wealthy girl with their head held high.

    6. like dust, I’ll rise.
      1. Simile

      This simile contrasts that of the symbol in the line above. Using the symbol of dirt to convey the unvalued and downtrodden significance of the African Americans to society, she counters this with the simile of dust. She implies that, similar to dust which rises from the ground when stepped on by a heavy foot, her community will rise up and fight against this oppression.

      1. Irony

      This set of two lines at the end of this first stanza address direct oppression and demonstrate irony. She explains that in an attempt to try and oppress her, the oppressors are giving her strength and determination to survive. With the intention to stop her from moving forward by stomping her into the dirt, it has an opposing effect. She is able to rise higher. The presence of oppression strengthens her resolve, and followed by "I'll rise" emphasizes her resistance to give in. Typically a negative and dirty image, Angelou is able to twist dust into a positive and strong image to show her community's desire for equality.

    7. dirt

      Dirt represents how the black community was treated. They were constantly being pushed down or insulted. The community was not accepted as a true part of society as they were seen as a low, disrespected class.

    8. swelling

      Verb: Rising in waves (such as the sea)

    9. Welling

      Verb: Rising, springing or gushing (like water)

    10. beset

      Verb: to surround or attack on all sides

    11. history’s shame

      "History's shame" could be interpreted as an understatement. Slavery generated extensive suffering through tearing apart families, destroying the spirits of African people, and many died. The effects still present today - seen with some still prevalent racist beliefs - demonstrate that slavery changed the course of American history.

      To view more about the history during this time period and how Maya Angelou impacted this crucial era of American history, view the Historical Context page note.

    12. I rise I rise I rise.

      The repetition of "I rise" at the end of the poem drives home her desire to work together with the African American community to rise and face the adversity and hardships that society imposes. It not only creates rhythm, but also reinforces the persistence and strength of the speaker.

    13. Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

      When talking about her ancestors, Angelou is referring to her great grandmother who was a slave (and passed away in 1942). By saying she is the dream, Angelou is attempting to set an example for others of her race in regards to rising above hard situations. Her goal with her work is to inspire change. She is demanding that society leave behind the negative effects of slavery and history of oppression with intent to rise above.

      Shown through her later works, Angelou's great success with not only poetry, but other aspects of American culture. being a poet of presidents, civil rights activist, filmmaker, actor, dancer, and above all educator. She was the first of many special experiences for the African American community; for instance, she served as the first black female street car driver in San Francisco, she wrote the first script by a black woman to be made into a Hollywood film, and her best-selling, award-winning autobiographical book (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) was one of the first ever written by an African American woman to generate widespread readership. Overall successful in her rise above the deep-rooted racist American beliefs as she played a major role in the civil rights movement.

    14. Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

      This line contrasts that of the dark images portrayed in the line above regarding nights of "terror and fear." This juxtaposition highlights the bright future ahead with her hopes for the civil rights movement by using the images of night and day.

    15. Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

      Referencing her personal experiences, she hopes to distance from the bad memories inflicted upon her and her community - leaving behind her race and moving towards equality. Specifically talking about the abuse that she endured as a child, but generally talking about the pain that African Americans were subjected to as a community. She will not let these events bring her down even if the whole world believes she should.

    16. Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

      Assonance is used in this line as the letter "e" sound and the rhyme of the two words produces a strong image of the speaker rising like an ocean's tide - emphasizing that she will bring change and drive the civil rights movement.

    17. I rise

      A refrain is a set of lines that is repeated at some distance throughout the poem. So in this poem, "Still I rise" is a refrain that is repeated in the first, third, and fifth stanza. "I rise" is also considered a refrain. The poem grows in power and builds to the climax in the eighth stanza. Preceding this stanza, the speaker intentionally questions the the oppressor and details the suffering of African Americans. After she is finished with her interrogation, she declares her objective to rise above this pain of the past by using the refrain.

    18. huts of history’s shame

      Alliteration from repeating the consonant "h" creates a line with a heavy sound as she refers to the history of slavery. Even though her people have been. oppressed in the past they have overcome these challenges and will continue this movement.

    19. Does my sexiness upset you?

      Alliteration is used in this line as the consonant "s" is repeated, making the line taunting. The repeated rhetorical questions place society on trial for the harm and injustice pitted against the African American community. While incriminating them, she reveals incredible self-confidence despite the hardships.

    20. like air

      Air in the simile illustrates that the speaker will continue to rise above the challenges set forth, no matter the harm that someone tries to inflict upon her.

    21. kill me with your hatefulness

      The oppression is brought to the climax in this stanza as Angelou compares the hate to death. Saying that the oppressor's hate might kill her spirit, she continues in the next line ensuring the reader that she will rise above. Overall from this stanza, the dark and grim connotation emphasize the aggression towards the African American community. In these lines she is referring to more deep emotional pain rather than physical hurt; however, she uses these tangible, violent objects to show her message. One's words and looks can destroy another person's emotional spirit and one's hatred can kill caused by certain societal rejections.

    22. cut me with your eyes

      This metaphorical weapon refers to the violence of a gun comparing it to the cruel looks of the oppressor. The looks are so hurtful and agonizing in the regard that they are sharp and cutting, like a knife.

    23. shoot me with your words

      Angelou uses metaphorical weapons in this stanza to emphasize the pain of the oppression. Referring to the violence of shooting a gun, the metaphor demonstrates the pain of the oppressor's hateful language.

    24. ’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines Diggin’ in my own backyard.

      By comparing gold mines to her laugh, she portraying that she laughs with the confidence of someone who is wealthy, like she had gold has been discovered in her backyard. She may not be wealthy in a financial sense; however, she has a great wealth of hope and spirit. This simile can also be interpreted as describing the richness of Angelou's culture. The traditions and ties to the culture and "backyard" shows she is close and involved in her community.

    25. Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes?

      Another set of rhetorical questions, Angelou is painting a picture of defeat. Being direct and pertinent, she is accusing the oppressor for their actions. She is aware that her success is received with bitterness by the racist society. A few interpretations can be drawn from this stanza. This may literally be a picture of a slave who was abused and she is referring to a broken person. But it can also be taken as a person with a broken spirit as this poem is an autobiography. When Angelou was a young child, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend and informed of his death after he was murdered soon after; the traumatic series of events led her to be almost completely mute for several years. This interpretation can be of her broken heart and broken spirit from those traumatic childhood experiences. Finally, a general interpretation applies this brokenness and defeat from challenge as an experience that everyone can undergo throughout their life - making it relatable and applicable to the general public, or someone who is experiencing similar despair.

    26. awful hard

      In these first two lines of this stanza, Angelou uses a sarcastic tone because she knows that society doesn't appreciate black women with pride and confidence in their accomplishments.

    27. Shoulders falling down like teardrops

      This simile shows the impact of societal conditions on her and the black community - that she is working towards fixing. The speaker refers to being upset and distraught to the point that one's shoulder collapse or sink down, just as tears fall off of one's cheek.

    28. Just like hopes springing high

      This simile stresses her point about maintaining high hopes and confidence during this time of oppression.

    29. Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides

      In this simile, Angelou is comparing her resilience to the rising sun and moon in how she will continue to live her life even after people insult and ridicule her. It is her nature to stand against oppression just like the nature of the tides to respond to the moon. The word "certainty" is significant in this line because it emphasizes that no matter how difficult the challenge, she will rise above it with certainty and confidence.

    30. history

      With this poem, Angelou's goal is to try and highlight the past wrongs and present realities of oppressed minority groups, specifically African Americans. Here, she is directly referencing the long history that this group of people has with slavery. To explore more behind the extensive history of oppression, check out this timeline for Slavery in America.

    31. Why are you beset with gloom?

      These first two stanzas contain rhetorical questions that notice society is upset with her success as a writer. Seeing as her work mostly dealt with speaking out against inequality, when Angelou's activist efforts became popular, she received backlash for being an African American woman. In this poem, she is questioning those who would try to deny her the right to succeed and become an accepted part of society. Throughout the poem, she refers to this "you," or the antagonist. Interrogating them, she holds the antagonist accountable for the painful events that her community has been subjected to for countless years.

    32. Does my sassiness upset you?

      This line reveals the speaker and sets up the tone for the poem. Introducing herself and her qualities, the speaker references her self-confidence and audaciousness. Seen in the stanza above, the speaker is aggrieved at the oppressor for subjecting this harm and challenge to their community, yet in this stanza she is triumphant portraying her will to survive. The tone entails the speaker's anger towards the oppressor but also the pride in her identity as a part of the African American community. It can be interpreted that the speaker is Maya Angelou as she credits her own life experiences and perspectives as a black woman during a time of maltreatment.

    33. haughtiness

      Verb: snobbish; proud

    34. trod

      Verb: trample; tread on; crush

    35. bitter, twisted lies

      Angelou is referring to biased literature, opinions, beliefs, etc. that were one-sided and dated. Born in 1928, Angelou was subjected to live through some of the worst oppression and inequality for people of color over the course of her lifetime. Although slavery had been abolished in 1865 following the ratification of the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, she continued to experience its harmful and strong-willed effects on society and the African American people almost a century later. Using writing as an outlet for activism, Angelou and many other colored poets contributed to the great social and political gains for this group with the civil rights movement.

  2. Sep 2021
    1. we in us find the eagle and the dove

      Metaphor: Donne is comparing his lover and himself to and eagle and dove. Typically the eagle symbolizes a powerful and sturdy image, while the dove symbolizes a calm, soft, and innocent image. The juxtaposition among these words can show the power imbalance in the relationship as Donne is the stronger male character represented by the eagle who rules over his lover categorized the the submissive innocence and purity of the dove. On another note, by saying "we in us" Donne could be moving past the stereotypical gender norms and implying that the love is both strong and innocent.

    2. The phœnix riddle hath more wit                 By us; we two being one, are it. So, to one neutral thing both sexes fit.          We die and rise the same

      Extended Metaphor: Throughout these lines, Donne compares him and his lover to a phoenix and the action of rising and dying. This intertwines both the spiritual and sexual in his writing.

      Allusion: This can also be a religious reference as the phoenix and its well known actions of rising and dying is commonly used as a symbol of the resurrection of Christ.

    3. are it

      Metaphor: Donne is saying that now that the two are united as one they are the phoenix as they now die and rise together.

    4. quarrels move

      Imagery: Donne describes these grand events using descriptive language that has a darker denotation (cold, sigh, injured, tears, war, etc.). This gives the reader an idea of what their love does not consist of, as he is saying that despite these events happening their love continues.

    5. Alas, alas, who’s injured by my love?          What merchant’s ships have my sighs drowned? Who says my tears have overflowed his ground?          When did my colds a forward spring remove?                 When did the heats which my veins fill                 Add one more to the plaguy bill?

      Repetition: The author uses the repetition of questions at the beginning of this stanza. This repetition highlights how Donne believes his love to be harmless compared to the outside world.

      Antithesis: Through these rhetorical questions Donne creates contrast between small actions (such as crying) to grand events (like the seasons changing).

    6. fly,

      Metaphor: Donne is comparing the lovers to flies in order to emphasize the insignificance of their love in comparison to the rest of the world based on the size of a fly.

    7. Canonization

      Extended Metaphor: Canonization is the process by which a dead person becomes a saint in religious tradition. This idea is continually carried throughout the poem as Donne is describing that he and his lover will be made saints for their love.

    8. love

      Repetition: Donne begins and ends each of the stanzas with love. This ensures that the reader knows that the couple's love is the central idea of this poem.

    9. “You, whom reverend love          Made one another’s hermitage; You, to whom love was peace, that now is rage

      Antithesis: There is contrast found within these lines, specifically involving the words "reverend," "love," "hermitage," "peace," and "rage." The contrast created among these lines conveys that people appear to appreciate their love, but their actions do not match their words.

    10.  well a well-wrought urn

      Alliteration: In this phrase, Donne repeats the letter 'w' when discussing an urn. This draws the readers attention to this reference and highlights the strength of their relationship and love.

    11. hymns

      Allusion: The reference to hymns suggests that their love is nearly at the level of Scripture.

    12. it will be fit for verse;

      Metaphor: Donne is saying that if the two lovers die in vain that their love will not be forgotten as it will last historically in the form of poetry. Although the couple may not last physically, their love will be validated via poetry.

    13. we two being one

      Allusion: This line of the poem refers to Christian religion, specifically the concept of marriage as two people unite as one body after being married.

    14. We’re tapers too

      Metaphor: This metaphor compares the lovers in the poem to tapers, or candles. This suggests that he thinks of him and his lover as burning candles - which eventually disappear. He and his lover will burn out, or die eventually, consumed by their passion for one another.

    15. let me love

      Repetition: Donne repeats "let me love" at the beginning and end of this stanza, suggesting a demanding tone. The author is emphasizing this phrase to demand from the reader the freedom to love his lover.