May 30 2014

Maya Angelou – Phenomenal Woman

Published by at 9:21 am under Poetry

Phenomenal Woman
by 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
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
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

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

— from Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women, by Maya Angelou

/ Photo by KealaKC /

Many of you have probably heard by now of the passing of the great American poet and activist Maya Angelou, so I thought we’d have a poem today in honor of that phenomenal woman.

Of course we have to read this poem aloud in order to enjoy the song in the rhyme and rhythm — go ahead, make some noise. Catch its sassy swaying proclamation of selfhood.

Woman, not some idealized form found in glossy magazine. Woman, not defined by a man as lover, wife, mother. Woman, not the virgin stripped of sex, and not the whore plastered with it. But woman, full and strong and bold. Praise to that mighty presence! Phenomenal woman.

Maya Angelou, Maya Angelou poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Maya Angelou

US (1928 – 2014) Timeline
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7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Maya Angelou – Phenomenal Woman”

  1. Paul Verizzoon 30 May 2014 at 11:22 am

    Not long ago, I wouldn’t have gotten “it.” Recently I the (many, intense) pleasures of a black woman (I’m white,) who embodied what Ms. Angelou talks of. I learned to love her Angelou-esque womanliness.

    I called her Venus, my Venus of Willendorf, Earth Mother. Mostly, I called her beautiful.

    All these years, turning my back on women the media told me I shouldn’t enjoy.

    I learned my lesson!

  2. Lindsey Nicholason 30 May 2014 at 12:50 pm

    A great poem by a great woman. I hope your strength is returning, many thanks, Ivan.

  3. Vera Valsechion 30 May 2014 at 1:11 pm

    To me this phenomenal woman was one of America’s greatest contemporary poets. As an English teacher myself, the delight I feel every time I work with this poem is difficult to describe!

    What a loss.

    Has anyone seen her in the movie “An American Quilt”? Don’t miss it!

  4. bharation 31 May 2014 at 4:26 am

    Paul’s words: ‘turn my back on women the media told me i shouldn’t enjoy’ made me think about the many prejudices that govern who we interact with and who we render invisible, the many causes and rights we push out of our minds… how much we are others’ dictation, and how little aware of ourselves.

    May we be blessed to touch our beingness, to embrace our miraculous lives, to breathe deeply of joy, and open ourselves to allow Nature to heal all levels.

  5. Trish Tayloron 04 Jun 2014 at 12:24 am

    Hi Ivan,
    Fellow sufferer and hoping it’s a good week for you. I am reading Maya’s Gather In my Name. Thank you for that wonderful poem.
    I am trying to find a CD with I Love You Lord and I Lift My Voice… on it.
    Can you help me?

  6. Ivan M. Grangeron 04 Jun 2014 at 8:05 am

    Thank you, Trish. I hope you’re doing well too.
    About the CD, my best guess would be to search for the song title, either in’s music department or maybe on One of those should pull up a CD for you. Good luck!

  7. Poetryon 01 Sep 2014 at 9:52 pm

    Great poem… you will forever live in our hearts Maya.

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