Poetic Resilience

I attended a family reunion and memorial service for my sister-in-law, Patty, this past weekend. Her young grandchildren eulogized her by reciting some poems they selected and that had meaning to them,  their grandmother, and as it turned out, the rest of our family.

Poetry has always been source for quieting,  reflecting and deepening our understanding of the world. I wrote about Amanda Gorman’s, (our first National Youth Poet Laureate)  Inaugural Speech and the power that her poetry conveyed to so much during these troubled political times.

Part of the power of poetry, I have learned, is that it must be read out loud. It is not meant to be read silently, as you might a book or a newspaper. Poetry is  at its most powerful when it resonates beyond the words in our minds and into the air so we can feel its reverberations like the wind moving the branches of a tree.

I did some research about what leading literary writers consider to be poems of resiliency and then did my own reading of several of these poems (out loud)  to see which inspired resilience in me and to others who heard its words. I chose one and asked my wife to read it when we spread Patty’s ashes in the woods.

So, I invite you to take 2 minutes to read (out loud and perhaps to another person) my newly favorite resilience poem

Still I Rise, by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod 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 backyard.

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.

And, if you want a special treat, check out this video of Maya Angelou reading her poem

© Richard Citrin 2021

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