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Poetry Corner | “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou

Graceful Strength with quote

In the words of the beloved poet, author and activist, the world lost a truly phenomenal woman on May 28, 2014.

Maya Angelou was born in 1928, into a segregated society that she worked to change during the Civil Rights movement and throughout her life. Her genuine, intelligent opinions and positive outlook brightened the lives of generations of people around the world and comprise links in a strong chain of quotes, inspiration and affirmation that now, upon the unexpected occasion of her death, is circling the world, gathering her fans to her and introducing new ones to her work, her words, and her world.

At Sweatpants & Coffee, we strive to remind you that you are beautiful. You matter, and your place in the world is wholly your own. Maya Angelou – her writing, her life, and her illumination – embodies the spirit of our site, our philosophy and everything we want to be. She believed in the power of women, of the sparkling verve of creativity and authenticity. Maya (we’d love to know we could call her Maya) didn’t care what masks society wants to place on our faces: she wanted to cultivate and show our beauty within, and this poem – beloved and repeated and represented as it is – encapsulates that hope as perfectly as a pearl within an oyster.

Rest in peace, dear heart. You once said that you believe “life loves the liver of it,” and you were so

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

– Maya Angelou

 

Photo credit: “Graceful Strength” by KMoFoto is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

 

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About Tomi Wiley (38 Articles)
Tomi L. Wiley is the Poetry and Short Fiction Editor for Sweatpants & Coffee.com. She has written and edited for media including Southern Living and Oxford American magazines, has been published in the literary anthologies Milk & Ink: a Mosaic of Motherhood, Telling Tales, Maypop and the Southeast Review, has coordinated panels for the Southern Festival of Books, spoken on the creative writing process at Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and is a past president of the Tennessee Writers Alliance. She lives in Knoxville, where she is writing her first novel with the help of lots of wine, goat cheese and the Barefoot Contessa.

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