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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

PHENOMENAL WOMAN, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"Phenomenal Woman" is a poem written by Maya Angelou, one of the most prominent African American poets and civil rights activists of the 20th century. The poem was first published in 1978 in Angelou's collection of poems, "And Still I Rise." It celebrates the beauty and power of a woman, particularly an African American woman, despite the societal pressures to conform to certain standards of beauty and behavior.

Explanation:

The poem is written in free verse and divided into four stanzas of varying length. Each stanza highlights a different aspect of the phenomenal woman. The first stanza describes the woman's confidence and how she carries herself. The second stanza speaks of her inner strength and resilience in the face of adversity. The third stanza discusses the impact she has on those around her, particularly men. The final stanza concludes with the refrain, "I am a woman, phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that's me," emphasizing the power and strength of womanhood.

Poetic Elements:

Form: Free verse

Theme: Empowerment of women, particularly African American women

Imagery: The use of metaphors to describe the woman's physical attributes and personality traits.

Tone: Confident, assertive, celebratory

Sound: Repetition of the phrase "Phenomenal woman," emphasizing its importance and power.

Language: Use of colloquial language, including slang and regional dialects, to emphasize the authenticity of the speaker's voice.

Figurative Language: Use of metaphors and similes to describe the woman's physical beauty and inner strength.

Structure: The poem is divided into four stanzas of varying length, each highlighting a different aspect of the phenomenal woman.

Symbolism: The poem celebrates the power and strength of womanhood, particularly that of African American women who have historically been marginalized and oppressed.

Emotion: The poem evokes feelings of empowerment and celebration of womanhood.

Poem Snippet:

"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."

Conclusion:

"Phenomenal Woman" is a celebration of the beauty and strength of womanhood, particularly that of African American women who have historically been marginalized and oppressed. Maya Angelou uses vivid imagery, metaphors, and colloquial language to emphasize the authenticity of the speaker's voice and the importance of self-confidence and inner strength. The poem has become a beloved anthem for women everywhere, encouraging them to celebrate their own unique beauty and power.


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