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Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

Page history last edited by Eva 10 years, 10 months ago

Phenomenal Woman


Explanation/Theme: This poem, unlike many of Maya Angelou's poems, is not about struggling racial issues, but rather focuses on gender in a celebratory tone.  


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.

"Pretty" has connotations of weakness or fragility.   

The "secret" is a metaphor for the inner essence she posses which makes her appealing. The metaphor is extended with the "inner mystery" in the third stanza.

"cute" contrasts with "woman" as one is childish and the other is mature.


"reach", "span", "stride", "curl" are all abstract nouns with associations to fertility, growth, bredth and strength. 

- Affirming her femininity but reinforcing a sense of strength and power to associate with it.

Concise, simple and strong statement. (short sentence)

Persona speaks to a collective 3rd person plural through various personal language.


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.


Extended metaphore; action of "swarm(ing)" has strong connoptations to bees and the metaphor is extended in the next line describing men as "a hive of honey bees" reffering to the way they crowd around the persona which could suggest she is the queen bee or the honey which the "bees" want. 







-Reflecting the passion. movement, fun and vivacious side of a woman. 




- "phenomenal" - almost superlative 

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

Extended metaphor: "inner mystery relates to "secret".




"touch", "see" - senses that men cannot  






- Describes sensuality positively,  a powerful sexual image.   

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.


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