Rise of the Phenomenal Woman: My Humble Tribute to Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Maya the iconoclast. Image source: http://www.achievement.org

Sharing my very humble tribute to the poet, author and iconoclast Maya Angelou that I had written for B’Khush.com, following her death in May 2014. I wanted to go on and on with my rambling about the woman, the writer and the activist who had inspired me profoundly, but the space restrictions hindered me, somewhat.

Here I am sharing a small excerpt of the piece which had been published by Antara Chakraborty, my friend and editor of B’khush in August 2014.

Maya Angelou: Rise of the phenomenal woman 

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.

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….” 

(Phenomenal Woman: Maya Angelou)

 In the morning of May 28, 2014, a life lived with beauty, grace, ruthless confidence and fearless passion came to a screeching halt. Maya Angelou, the poet, memoirist, activist, dancer, singer, civil rights activist, mentor and hero to the oppressed, truly a women representing the Renaissance among the modern times, breathed her last in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a place that she called home for the last three decades of her life. The ‘caged bird’ whose songs soared on the wings of an eagle left behind the legacy, depth and wisdom of her phenomenal life in her classic works of poetry and memoirs. As for her innumerable readers, they will remain seeped in the classic intensity and power of her poems including Phenomenal  Woman, Still I Rise and I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, the seething, penetrating documents of the life and persona of the woman who dared to talk from the heart, and had fearlessly depicted her rawness, passion, vulnerability as well as strength, inspiring us with the magic of her words.

My first tryst with the poet and profound thinker Maya was the reading of the fiercely feminist poem Phenomenal Woman. Like her other readers and admirers, I had been inspired by the way she unfolded the unconventional beauty and the deep, raw sexuality of a woman in the lines of the poem. In this fiery poem, she comes across as immensely unrelenting and unforgiving about her self-identity as a woman. The way she writes about ‘the ride of my breasts’, ‘the swing in my waist’, the ‘span of my hips’, she actually chronicles the heart of every woman, documents their own struggles with a rousing spirit, and a joyful, unabashed soul. The poem happened to be the first literary work of this amazing, gifted storyteller and poet that encouraged me, taught me the courageous expressions of creativity.”

To read the rest of the short essay, do visit this page and leave your precious comments:



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