My Favorite Poem

Over at Poets on the Page this week, we are delving deeper into the things that inspire us to write poetry. On Sunday, we were asked to identify a single poem that moves us and to explore why and how that poem speaks to us. My butterfly mind flitted from one poem to another until I remembered the remarkable poem “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou.

Listen to Dr. Angelou recite her poem in the video or read the full text here.

My gorgeous former student!

My gorgeous former student!

I remember the first time I heard this poem. I was teaching dance in a public high school and had assigned my Dance 3/4 students a choreography project where they had to use spoken word as the accompaniment to their in-class performance. One of my students chose “Phenomenal Woman” and put together a stunning work. Her movements were deliberate and strong, just as the words of the poem. This young lady embodied the picture painted by Dr. Angelou’s words, both in class and beyond.

The message of this poem is one that I admire and try to embody myself.

“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size.”

Like many women I know, I struggle with body image issues. This poem reminds me that each of us is extraordinary regardless of the number on the scale or the size of our jeans.

I’ve also been a victim of sexual abuse and rape, but as I live each day now as a survivor, I remind myself that what happened in the past happened to my body, to the “outer” part of me.

“Men themselves have wondered  

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery.”
Ultimately, Dr. Angelou’s words empower me to embrace all that I am as a woman, from the shape of my body to the art that I create.
“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.”
When I think about a “phenomenal woman”, I tend to gravitate to the definition “remarkable or extraordinary”. I believe all women (and men, too, for that matter) are phenomenal in this sense. I wanted to go a bit deeper today, though, so I looked up the meaning of the term. According to Merriam-Webster online, “phenomenal” also means “known through the senses rather than through thought or intuition.” This definition shows me the absolute genius of Dr. Angelou’s word choice. After all, isn’t it better to be experienced by someone rather than have them think or assume things about us without ever knowing us personally?
“I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.”
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3 thoughts on “My Favorite Poem

  1. Well, Amy, I officially cried watching that video. Why is she SO amazing!?! Absolutely brilliant choice to highlight, thank you for sharing it and for sharing your story. “Phenomenal woman, all you women, and ME” stunning.

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