Black History Month 2012 Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday: Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman and India Arie’s Because I am a Queen

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Since this week is devoted to celebrating Black History Month here in GatheringBooks, we are featuring our favorite poet of all times, Maya Angelou as she reads her poem Phenomenal Woman. Perfect for this year’s theme: Black Women in American Culture and History. Poetry Friday is hosted this week by Check it Out – do visit the featured posts today.

Here is the entire poem for your delectation:

Phenomenal Woman 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,
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
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

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
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

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

Phenomenally.
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
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me. 

I also thought that it would be great to include a video clip of India Arie singing one of my favorite songs of all time: Because I am a Queen. Enjoy the music, my lovelies:

Because I am a Queen – India Arie

sometimes i shave my legs and sometimes i don’t
sometimes i comb my hair and sometimes i won’t
depend on how the wind blows i might even paint my toes
it really just depends on whatever feels good in my soul

i’m not the average from your video
and i ain’t built like a supermodel
but i learned to love myself unconditionally
because i am a queen
i’m not the average from your video
my worth is not determined by the price of my clothes
no matter what i’m wearing i will always be
india arie

when i look in the mirror and the only one there is me
every freckle on my face is where it’s supposed to be
and i know my creator didn’t make no mistakes on me
my feet my thighs my lips my eyes i’m loving what i see

i’m not the average from your video
and i ain’t built like a supermodel
but i learned to love myself unconditionally
because i am a queen (yeah)
i’m not the average from your video (woo)
my worth is not determined by the price of my clothes (whoa)
no matter what i’m wearing i will always be
india arie

am i less of a lady if i don’t wear hose
my mama said a lady ain’t what she wears but what she knows
but i’ve drawn the conclusion
it’s all an illusion
confusion’s the name of the game
a misconception a vast deception,
something’s got to change

don’t be offended this is all my opinion
ain’t nothing that i’m saying law
this is a true confession
of a life-learned lesson
i was sent here to share with y’all
so get in when you fit in
go on and shine
clear your mind
now’s the time
put your salt on the shelf
go on and love yourself (love yourself)
’cause everything’s gonna be alright (love yourself)

i’m not the average from your video
and i ain’t built like a supermodel
but i learned to love myself unconditionally
because i am a queen (yeah)
i’m not the average from your video (woo)
my worth is not determined by the price of my clothes (whoa)
no matter what i’m wearing i will always be
india arie

keep your fancy drink and your expensive minks
i don’t need that to have a good time
keep your expensive cars
and your caviar
all’s i need is my guitar
keep your cristal and your pistol
i’d rather have a pretty piece of crystal
don’t need your silicone
i prefer my own
what God gave me is just fine

i’m not the average from your video
and i ain’t built like a supermodel
but i learned to love myself unconditionally
because i am a queen
i’m not the average from your video 
my worth is not determined by the price of my clothes
no matter what i’m wearing i will always be

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

11 comments on “Poetry Friday: Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman and India Arie’s Because I am a Queen

  1. Both of those are classics, Myra! And they both have the same contented spirit. Some of my other favorites of India’s are “I am not my hair” and “Ready for love.”

    Hope you have a great weekend!

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  2. These are beautiful, and I want to say that they’re what I needed tonight, Myra. Thank you for sharing something that feels so good. I love these lines: “The need of my care,” by Maya Angelou, and “my mama said a lady ain’t what she wears but what she knows”.

    Like

  3. I have always loved and respected her work.

    Like

  4. I love the Maya Angelou poem. Do you know Lucille Clifton’s “Homage to My Hips?” Great poem on a similar theme.

    Like

  5. Thanks for these, Myra. What a feel good post! Just what I needed today. Affirmations!

    Like

  6. Pingback: Carnival of Children’s Literature: A February Round-Up and More «

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