Poem Review Two

Carmen Johnson

Review #2


Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman


            In her collection of poems, Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou tackles many issues about being a woman of color. It’s a very short collection of only four poems, but each poem is loaded with different issues about race and gender. The poems are very easy to understand, and each poem is constructed in a similar manner, creating a sense of unity throughout the poems. Each poem had a solid conceit which was easy to comprehend, and all of the poems had similar conceits. I was able to understand every poem upon only one read, but reading them over and over again provided a better understanding each time.

            Angelou’s writing style in both simple and beautiful and is loaded with strong imagery. For example, in her poem Phenomenal Woman, there are several lines which read as, “It’s the fire in my eyes,/ And the flash of my teeth,/The swing of my waist,/ And the joy of my feet.” (22-25). In this poem, Angelou is describing her own unique traits that make her beautiful, and descriptive words like “fire” and “flash” not only add individuality to the poem, but also make me want to believe what she is saying more.

            Angelou also uses structure very well throughout this collection of poetry. Most of her poems are broken into quatrains, but every now and then she’ll add a completely new structure randomly to a poem. For example, in her poem Still I Rise, the last stanza is the only one in the entire poem that isn’t in the form of a quatrain, and reads as, “Leaving behind nights of terror and fear/I rise/Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear/I rise/Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,/I am the dream and the hope of the slave./I rise/I rise/ I rise. This last stanza is written in free verse, but it doesn’t distract or take anything away from the poem in the manner she works it in with the rest of the poem.

            Angelou’s title choices were pretty dead-on descriptions of what to expect from the poems themselves, and she didn’t use any trickery or cryptic language in her title choices. For example, her poem entitled Weekend Glory is all about getting through the work week and being able to enjoy one’s weekend, and the poem Still I Rise is all about her strength and how nobody in this world can keep her down.

            Angelou continues with her overall theme about the strength of a woman of color through till the end of her collection. Her final poem Our Grandmothers is the heaviest poem of the bunch, and it seems as though she was trying to show her readers what it’s like to be a woman and all of the ordeals women, especially of color, have to go through in life. She ends her collections of poetry with line, “for I shall not be moved,” making concrete the idea that she is indeed a strong woman and wants to encourage that behavior in others.

            Overall, I enjoyed this collection of poems thoroughly. Their simple but beautiful style and common themes made for a very nice read, and offer a better understanding of what life may have been like for Maya Angelou herself.