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Phenomenal Woman

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  • April 24, 2013
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Maya Angelou’s poem, “Phenomenal Woman”, is a compelling form of art. Angelou tends to write about topics that are often disregarded and unexplored by others. Her poem illustrates the love a woman has for herself even though she isn’t considered beautiful. The language and tone indicate that the speaker was abused. Her pride has risen from the torture and neglect she experienced. Instead of being ashamed and blaming herself, she has gained hope.

The scholarly essay by Kelly Holland Cecil analyzes the key concepts of the poem and notes Angelou’s inspiration and the general patterns that can be found throughout her poetry. Cecil notes the generalization of Angelou’s usage of personal experience and history, “Much of Angelou’s poetry, almost entirely short lyrics, expresses in strong, often jazzy rhythms, themes common to the life experiences of many American blacks – discrimination, exploitation, being on welfare. Other poems deal with social issues and problems which, though not unique to blacks, are explored from a black perspective.”

In my own analysis I discovered that Maya Angelou mostly writes from experience, and this poem falls perfectly in that category. She faced constant discrimination as a woman, particularly an African American woman. She also thought that she was never terribly pretty. She allowed this dissatisfaction to grow, but when she became older she killed it with the sense of pride she gained. As a child, Angelou was sexually abused. When she told her family about the terrible occurrence, the man was killed. She chose to remain silent for the next five years, because she believed that her words had killed the man. Her silence has taught her the power and capabilities that words possess, and she clearly evokes that notion in this poem. Though she was abused as a child, she has grown into a talented woman. Kelly Cecil writes, “The persona in this poem is a strong, confident woman. Lyman B. Hagen states, ‘The woman described is easily...