Maya Angelou

(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)

Phenomenal Woman - Poem 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,
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Topic(s) of this poem: beautiful

Comments about Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

  • April Hope (8/11/2009 11:27:00 PM)

    Actually, I quite disagree with Yacov Mitchenko. I find his response to be lacking validity as well as fairly judgmental.

    First of all - to give some sort of 'outline' as to the discussion of happiness is pure arrogance, what audacity! ! The hypocrisy of your statements is blatantly obvious, you are merely describing a different way to reach a goal. Further, how exactly can you call any poem immoral within an argument about reaching depth within a poem. To take this poem at nothing more than the so-called cliches is similar to declaring an orange too bitter because you would not take the time to peel it.

    It is true that Maya Angelou uses some chiches within this poem. However, when a stanza is approached as a complete thought, a new image is presented. For instance: in the beginning she writes

    'It's in the reach of my arms
    The span of my hips,
    The stride of my step,
    The curl of my lips.'

    Words like 'reach, span, stride, and curl' bring to mind images of mountains, vast open spaces encompassing all your view. This is in direct response to the statement made about the question of where her 'womanly secrets' lie - perhaps to allude to the idea that she hasn't hidden what makes her 'phenomenally woman', but instead displayed it for all to see - impossible to ignore.

    Also, Angelou has done an excellent job using diction to her fullest advantage. Look at the words in this poem: her use of heavy syllables (i.e. lips, hips, curl, arch) followed by full and breathy ones (i.e. swarm, swing, waist, sun) bring to mind the movement of lips while kissing. Interdispersed with statements like 'the ride of her breasts' further call to mind primal sexuality, that unnameable quality of raw femininity that belongs to women alone.

    However she counters this aptly by keeping her statements light and fresh. By calling upon known cliches and using brief descriptions, she keeps the forefront of the poem focused on one of her overall themes - the inherent beauty of woman that can be so obvious yet so mysterious.

    Further, it is important to keep in mind the setting of Maya Angelou's America. Through her writing, Angelou dealt with many issues regarding topics of racism to abuse, womanhood to motherhood, and the essence of family. This is one of the many reasons why she is considered to be a renown black author to this day.

    However, unlike some ethnic authors, Angelou does not blatently call up the images of race. Notice within her poem there is never any comment as to the color of a woman, or the tint of her skin. Though she does not completely leave this history behind - Angelou pays homage to her heritage by echoing the rhythmic beat of the drum in her rhythm, much the same way Shakespeare created and followed his iambic pentameter which has the same rise and fall of many Christian Hymns.

    Overall I do believe that Maya Angelou has done a beautiful job of sculpting language to speak to many without barriers, carry harmonious themes, and channel vague clarity to create a descriptive yet hazy picture of what it is that gives women everywhere that certain quality everyone can see, yet few can name.

    And I do not condone the judgement of poetry upon a numbered scale. (Report) Reply

    2 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • Raymond Dotterer (8/11/2009 2:21:00 PM)

    I have to agree with Yacov Mitchenko. This is a very weak poem. (Report) Reply

  • Dann Thomas (8/11/2009 7:02:00 AM)

    Phenomenal - both the poem and the coincidence that the day I read poem, I saw the movie 'Beauty shop' and words from this poem are used in the script. (Report) Reply

  • James Mcmahon (8/10/2009 7:36:00 PM)

    Yes it was very good I loved it, well who doesnt like a beautiful woman, very clever and creative (Report) Reply

  • Kimberly Nivar (8/9/2009 7:16:00 PM)

    Maya Angelou has been my inspiration since I saw her on sesame street at the age of 6. Since than, as I have grown, her poetry has made an impact in my life. Most of her poetry I was able to relate to, especially this one. She inspired me to become a strong, outspoken woman, and not to be afraid of my own artistic speech. Way da go girl! ! You are an inspiration to all african american woman, and women of all over the world. (Report) Reply

  • Yacov Mitchenko (8/7/2009 4:28:00 AM)

    Actually, this is a poor poem, when viewed with the cool, dispassionate professional eye. Anyone with a keen, well-developed English sense can spot cliches in almost every line. And poetry is (among other things) a war against cliches. Notice the expressions: 'reach of my arms', 'fall down on their knees', 'flash of my teeth', 'sun of my smile', 'fire in my eyes'. All cliches. I can understand how the sentiment can appeal to many timid females, but we should never conflate the agreeableness of sentiment with actual craft and artistry. Besides, the sentiment is rather shallow, and it's probably the shallowness that naturally yields the cliches. It has the same kind of appeal as 'Don't worry, Be happy'. A more profound approach would be to fully understand unhappiness and misery, go step by step, unravelling it slowly, tenderly, with care, rather than make some positive, hollow affirmation. When unhappiness is fully understood, you needn't look for 'happiness'. And who knows exactly what 'happiness' means anyway? You begin with the negativities, go into them, rather than escaping from them through cliches. This poem is not only terribly crafted, but is immoral in the sense of the author's not being serious, not digging within and reflecting adequately. Cliches are a reflection or by-product of that immorality. This poem merits no higher than a 4. (Report) Reply

  • Enitan Onikoyi (8/4/2009 9:48:00 PM)

    It is an honour to write comment on my hero's work. (Maya Angelou's works) It is a great honour. What can I say about your work but to call it excellent. (Report) Reply

  • Enitan Onikoyi (8/4/2009 9:44:00 PM)

    I.t is an honour to write comment on my heros, . Maya Angelou's works. It is a great honour. What can I say about your work but to call it excellent. (Report) Reply

  • Lesley Merrin (8/4/2009 9:02:00 AM)

    I love this poem and I wish I had that sort of confidence. I thimk my life would have been very different if I had (Report) Reply

  • Sonali Sonali Patnaik Das (7/30/2009 6:56:00 AM)

    Very well written. Proud to be a woman. Wish women from all over the world, all economic status, religions and sects would take pride in their own existence. (Report) Reply

  • Chanelle Williams (7/30/2009 12:35:00 AM)

    this is cool :) add me! ! lol (Report) Reply

  • Matt Mooney Matt Mooney (7/27/2009 4:22:00 PM)

    Nice to meet you if only in your phenomenal poem! (Report) Reply

  • Carol Gall (7/27/2009 12:02:00 PM)

    wow over 1600, votes without the comments amazing (Report) Reply

  • Siddartha Montik Siddartha Montik (7/27/2009 7:22:00 AM)

    Phenominal.., expressing more of the beauty of confidence! Loved reading it! (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh Gautam (7/26/2009 4:32:00 AM)

    Just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading this poem. Searched the fragrance of purity......... I see. (Report) Reply

  • Sonali Sonali Patnaik Das (7/24/2009 4:29:00 AM)

    I enjoyed reading this poem. It touched a string. (Report) Reply

  • Pam Smithith (7/22/2009 10:51:00 PM)

    My Clock of time by ataka royse is another awesome poem. (Report) Reply

  • Danyelle Major (7/17/2009 6:22:00 PM)

    I am amazed by this poem and if there was a way I would love to look at myself and descibe myself to others this would be it. Maya Angelou is amazing. (Report) Reply

  • Robert Dougherty (7/15/2009 1:41:00 AM)

    I like this Poem, to show your understanding towards self-confidence.
    Looks do matter, but Personality and what's inside matter more.
    Life is very hard nowadays, so changing the minds a person at a time.
    Will Eventually save the world. :) (Report) Reply

  • Kundan Bhakuni (7/14/2009 6:17:00 AM)


    Well... what can I say? Is it correct to be politiclly correct or is it correct to be just correct.

    Being very honest, this poem is a first person description of the world view over a group. This being the backbone gets an above average rating in terms of conept and creativity as I have read many poems with such backbone.

    Content as in term of description is below average as it doesn't excite me or intice me as a male reading the poem. I find it very difficult to get inside the depth of the poem. In short the poem doesn't really finds a universal reach. I confirmed this with a few fellow friends of mine. However, I could 'assume' that femalegroup might find the content of the poem as very energitic and exciting. However, the usage of words to connect lack a great degree of imagination. I.e it's very basic.

    Title of the poem is a dissapointment as it gives away the vigour of the poem (even though it has a little of it) and if content is compared to the title thought they are in the same genre they fail to complement each other (coffe and tea both being brews can't be mixed with each other) . As soon as I read the title I knew this poem is about a woman talking about her attitude and pride and more disspointing was when actually it was the case.

    Overall I feel this is a very average (politically correct) / or very 'below' average (being 'very' honest) poem that is hard to read with groing excitment till the end.

    Please do not mind (or if you do please then do) my comments as I am being politically (am I?) correct to bring out my feeling after reading this. I actually read this poem for a reason and the reason being I just joined the site and I wanted to read the top poem and to be very very very honest (yes again) I am wholy dissapointed in getting this as my first sample.

    Though being optimistic (since I believe am a 'Phenomenal Man') I will browse through a few more poems, I hope my 'head doesn't bow' and 'I fall down on my knees' and look for another option. However, I am sure I will find many good poems and I will 'shout and jump' with joy finding many exciting poems (actually) .

    Peace and yeah good effort (I mean it)


    Under-rated, unknown and amature poet,

    Kundan Bhakuni (Report) Reply

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