“Still I Rise”
In early drafts of the book’s manuscript there were several extracts of poems and passages from various pieces of writing that I particularly like that illustrated aspects of Susie-Belle’s story. As the writing process evolved for me, I edited a lot of them down or out of the book and in the final version that I submitted to the publisher, there were only those left that had a deep resonance with our story.
Once the book went through the process of preparing for publication, some of the poetry which I had retained had to be shortened further. A particular piece, by one of the women writers that I find most inspirational, Maya Angelou, I was disappointed had to be reduced to a single line as the poem is powerful and deeply meaningful to me when I consider Susie-Belle’s life and survival. So here it is in its full version:
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
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.