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  • Writer's pictureArchuleta A. Chisolm

Always the Phenomenal Woman

I was about 10 years old when I read the poem Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou. It’s a lyrical poem that shouts an undeniable message about convention and stereotype: empowerment comes from being confident in your own female skin, no matter if you are seen as cute by society.

Maya Angelou published this poem in 1978 when it appeared in And Still I Rise, a collection of powerful poems that set many oppressed women free. Since then, the poem has been adapted and used by associations, movies, and groups world-wide.

Even at 10 years old, I could feel the passion from the words. Somehow, it was filling me up with everything I would need later on in life. Her poetry had the power to do that.

We are in the midst of fighting for women’s rights and equality, as well as the right to our own bodies. This poem written over 40 years ago is still relevant and raises the level of our consciousness.

In honor of National Poetry Month and Maya Angelou’s birthday, enjoy one of her most famous works.

Phenomenal Woman

Maya Angelou

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.

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