Tuesday Poem: Serena Williams reads Maya Angelou 'And Still I Rise'

On the big, emotional occasions it seems that only poetry can properly express how we feel. Weddings, funerals, births, love affairs, despair and disaster all merit a verse or two - even team sports find a rousing chant useful to get the adrenaline flowing.  People who might never read a volume of poetry themselves will trawl the internet and find one particular poem that says exactly the emotions they can’t express. Or they might write one, discovering a creativity they didn’t know they had.  So it was particularly wonderful to hear Serena Williams, one of the greatest athletes in sport today (perhaps ever), read a moving and highly political poem by Maya Angelou, when she won the Wimbledon singles championship for the 7th time (and the doubles for the sixth) at the age of 35.  It’s a very beautiful poem, and particularly relevant for everything that is going on in the USA at the present time.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

© Maya Angelou
And Still I Rise, 1978, Random House USA

Want to hear Serena Williams read it?


  1. Thank you so much for posting this, Kathy. Very beautiful and a much needed to boost to flagging spirits,
    Ceinwen x

  2. Miss Williams is strong and smart; what a great choice for a poem. I'm going to try to commit Ms. Angelou's brilliant ode to my aging memory. I'd like to carry it along with me for the rest of the ride. Thanks Kathy for reminding me how fitting words together can build strong and lasting images.


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