Maya Angelou

The poem `and still I rise` was written by Maya Angelou in the 1960’s in America. During which time the black civil rights movement was very prominent and Dr Angelou was a very prominent part of it. Coming off the back of years of slavery of her people due to there skin colour and years of oppression she herself may have faced due to her gender Dr Angelou had a lot to say. The poem `presents from my Aunt in Pakistan` was written by Pakistani born poet Moniza Alvi who currently resides in London, England. The poem’s main theme is confusion and the feeling of being split between two cultures.

She writes about this as she is originally Pakistani but moved to our country at a very young age due to her family being invited over not only to help rebuild our country but to escape the danger she faced in her own. The main theme of Alvis poem is the feeling of confusion she has as she thinks she is of no set culture and race emphasised in phrases such as `longing for corduroy and denim` which are both big symbols of western culture. One could also argue that the poem is also about racism due to phrases such as ‘my school friend didn’t like my salwar kameez` which could be seen by some as a hint toward racism and prejudice.

Another way we see that Alvi is confused is through the disorganized, almost messy way she has written the poem, with no rhyme and set line length it gives the reader a sense of confusion which is undoubtedly what she feels. In stark contrast Angelous’ poem shows no such confusion with an abcb rhyme scheme and a set line length all of the way through it becomes obvious to the reader that Angelou knows exactly what she wants to write and how she wants to write it.

The main theme throughout the poem is prejudice, whether racist or sexist, and is made obvious through phrases like `from out of the huts of histories shame` a reference to the incredibly awful conditions the slaves would have had to endure in the plantations they would be forced to work on, and ‘I dance like I’ve got diamonds at the meeting of my thighs’ a reference to the woman exclusive ability to give birth.

In her poem Alvi evokes the feelings and emotions of the reader by describing items and events in her life in certain ways, for example ‘a salwar kameez peacock blue` gives the reader an image of a beautiful piece of clothing with many different shades of blue and green and also a feeling of pride is given as peacocks use their feathers to show off and that is what you imagine Alvi doing in her brand new salwar kameez. However in Angelou’s poem feelings are created in the reader through direct speech to them through phrases such as you may attack me with your… this metaphorical phrase gives the reader an intense feeling of shame for what there ancestors have done even though they themselves are not at fault and have done nothing wrong to Angelou or any of her oppressed and dejected ancestors who had suffered from slavery. The way Alvi’s poem is set out could be seen, as well as a sign of confusion, as a link to the title by basing each verse around an item for instance verse 4 is based around a ‘camel skin lamp` that sits in her parents bedroom and verse 1 is based around the clothes receives from her aunt like her ‘salwar kameez`.

On the other hand Angelou’s poem is set out from the very beginning as strong and as confident as possible, once again to show that she is set on her views and knows exactly what to write and how to write it. As well as this we see that the very last verse in the poem is set out as though it is a spine or back-bone to show the strength she has and is gaining throughout the poem which culminates in the three straight ‘I rise` lines at the end which are completely straight vertically emphasising not only the line itself but the strength and solidarity gained.

This way of setting out could also be seen by some as a tree rising from the bottom of the page into the sky, not only does this link to the title and theme of the poem which is ‘and still I rise` but also links to one of the first, and most potent, lines of that verse ‘up from a past that’s rooted in pain` implying that the tree itself has grown up from roots of slavery and hardship that blacks, and women, have shared in the past In conclusion I believe that although both poems are very good and effective the poem ‘and still i rise` written by Dr Anglelou is most effective at emphasising its theme and getting its main messages to the reader.

I felt that Angelou’s style of writing and use of rhyme made the poem much more interesting for me and will probably do the same for other readers and the use of ill/I rise as a refrain really sticks in your mind and feels almost like a ghostly echo of the poem whenever I think of it. On top of this her use of brilliant techniques likes simile (‘walk like I’ve got oil wells… giving us an image of her being incredibly wealthy) and metaphor (‘I’m a black ocean leaping and wide` to show that its not just her but an ocean of people larger than the eye can see) really emphasise the points she is trying to make and, once again, make the piece much more interesting to read.

The rhetorical questions are nother feature of Angelou’s poem that makes it more effective as talking to the reader with questions such as ‘does my sassiness upset you` and ‘why are you beset with gloom` makes the reader feel, not only shame, but also anger and makes them feel almost willed to help her do something about the racism and sexism she has suffered. It is for all these reasons and many more that I believe Angelou’s poem best puts across to the reader her theme of inequality, whether it be due to race, gender, or anything else. And i for one believe she has achieved her goal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *