In my essay I will be comparing the two poems “nothings changed” by Tatamkhulu Afrika and “still I’ll rise” by Maya Angelou.
My main aim in this essay is to discover how the two poets describe and express their feelings. I will do this by focusing on their use of linguistic techniques and what effect this has given on the reader. Moreover, I will concentrate on how the poets have structured the poem, by carefully analyzing it.
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Maya Angelou is one of the most renowned and influential voices of our time. She has many titles such as memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist. She was born on the 4th April 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. At the age of 26 Angelou studied modern dance and poetry; however, her studies did not stop there. She travelled to Cairo, Ghana, New York and in this time she had mastered French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and Fanti. In 1993 she composed a poem at Bill Clinton’s inauguration; it was watched live on air all around the world.
“You may write me down in history, with the bitter twisted lies you may tread me in the very dirt but still like dust ill rise” in his opening verse of the poem, the reader automatically senses Maya’s attitude towards the reader and I felt as though she was spearing the reader with these words by saying “your bitter” by doing this I thought that if made the reader feel as though they had done all this to Maya, therefore it made the reader feel emotional. Maya Angelo wrote at the start of her poem “Your bitter twisted lies” in this quotation Angelou is presenting her feelings by harshly saying that you can do whatever you want with your bitter twisted lies. The word “twisted” shows the reader how untrue these lies are and how hurtful, and unpleasant, these lies are to her. Just like when you take a piece of paper and you twist it, the creases are impossible to take out.
Then she says the word “bitter” this shows the reader how distressful this is to her and shows the reader that it really hurts her. “Trod me in very dirt” by saying this she explains herself and says that, you can do whatever you want but it doesn’t bother me, still ill get there. She shows that she is full of firmness and determination and nothing will stop her. Then at the end of the Stanza off, she writes “but still like dust ill rise” by writing this she shows the reader how confident she is. We can prove this because Angelou has used a simile “like dust” by writing this she means that just like dust rises in the air and you cannot see it rising, in the same way, will she 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” Maya is questioning the reader and I thought that this was a really effective way to get the readers attention, she says, just because I’m passionate and lively is that upsetting you, why are you jealous of me? I thought that Maya purposely wrote this because she wanted to show the reader how unfair it is and how cruel it is that a person can’t be themselves. Then Maya writes “cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells pumping in my living room” I thought that this was a really effective and important line in Angelou’s poem. I thought that Maya used a powerful metaphor “oil wells pumping in my living room” I thought that the word oil stood for something significant. If a person has an oil well they maybe very rich and the fact that she has used this, shows that she has something special inside her, Maya is showing her determination because just like if you have oil a person can be very powerful in the same way Maya is saying no one will be able to stop her because she has something special which is determination and courage.
Now I will start by analyzing the 3rd stanza
“Just like the suns and moons with the certainty of tides, just like hopes spring high still ill rise” In this stanza, Angelo shows her desperation and desire to achieve this goal, which is to end discrimination. Moreover, Angelou refers to the sun, moon and tides to represent her nature. She says that just like the certainty that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west and the moon will appear in the night and tides will wash in and out of seashores in the same way she will achieve this goal. Moreover from my judgment, I think that Maya inspires the reader by saying “with the certainty of tides hopes spring high” she is influencing the reader by saying that your hope will always rise and that it is natural in a person’s life just like the tides coming in and out are natural and the sunrise and set is natural.
“Did you want to see me broken bowed head lowered eyes, shoulders falling like teardrops, weakened by my soulful cries”
It thought that this stanza was one of the most effective; this was because Maya really expressed her feelings and showed her true inner self. Unlike the other stanza’s I realized that Maya Angelou never wrote “I’ll rise” at the end of the sentence. This was because she wanted to show the reader how much pain and distress discrimination has caused inside her. I think what made this stanza very special was the fact that for the first time Maya showed her downside, and by doing this she told the reader that the pain inside her that discrimination has caused is something that will stay there forever inside her, and unfortunately she can not rise above that pain. I thought that this made the stanza very emotional because this was something that Maya Angelou could not rise above.
In this stanza I felt as though Maya was showing her identity and who she is.
“Does my haughtiness offend you, don’t you take it awful hard” what she meant by this was that just because I feel I’m higher than every one else and I’m proud of myself, is that offending you, the reason why I thought this was because Maya wrote “cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines digging in my own backyard” and the word “laugh” proves this because it shows that she is happy. I thought that this was a really powerful stanza because Maya, put across the message that, these people are so arrogant and jealous that just because she is proud to be who she is and she’s proud that she’s black, these people hate it (don’t you take it awful hard) what she means by awful hard is that if a white person was proud of his or her self and was proud to be white would we hate it? No so why can’t she be herself?
“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 ill rise” in this stanza I felt that Maya made the reader feel guilty, this was because she was putting the blame on the person who was reading by saying “you may”. I thought that this was a really effective way of attracting attention; What Maya Angelou meant when she said “you may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness” is that you can do whatever you like, whether its your lies “shoot me with your words”, you can have all the jealousy inside you “cut me with your eyes”, have all the hatred inside you “kill me with your hatefulness”, but none of these things will ever stop me “but still like air I’ll rise”, she is saying that its never going to stop me so its pointless. On the other hand, we know that these things hurt her inside because she says “but still like air I’ll rise”. My opinion of this was that, she meant that just like you can contaminate air, but you can never stop it from being there. In the same way she is portraying that, all the lies that have been said about her, and all the hatred, it does hurt her but it will never stop her from reaching this goal that she has always wanted. “I’ll rise”.
“Does my sexiness upset you, does it come as a surprise” what Maya was trying to portray is because she is sexy and she is black, it comes as a surprise to them to see that a black person stands out, and a black person to stand up for herself, what she is trying to say, is that it upsets them and they are irritated to see this. I thought that this really showed the character of these white people and the difference it made if you were black or white on how you were treated. Moreover, once again Maya Angelou directed this at the reader by saying “you” and this made the reader feel as though they were one of these white people. Then when I was analyzing this, I thought that they were many different ways of interpreting the word “sexiness”.
My interpretation was that Maya wrote this because she was speaking on behalf of the black people in the world and not just herself and what this meant was that she was saying that all blacks are “naturally attractive” in other words they, have something naturally special inside them, and in order to unveil it, they need to stand up and rise and be themselves. Maya is saying to all black people that stand up for yourself and you will be the winner in the end just like she is a winner. My proof of this is, that at the end the poem Maya wrote “I rise” instead of “I’ll rise” this showed the reader that just like she has said she “will rise” but know she has risen “I rise” and also Angelou wrote “that I dance like I’ve got diamonds at the meeting of my thighs” this showed the reader that know she has got something to really boast about. To add to that I thought that Maya was a real inspiration to the black community.
My second interpretation of this stanza was that Maya wrote this because she was unique, and she was an icon to other black people, and this was very unusual to see in a black person to stand up and become a leader, and my proof of this is she wrote “does it come as a surprise”
“Out of the huts of histories shame, I rise” here Maya Angelou talks about that out of all what has happened in history she has risen above. Another explanation was that by saying “histories shame” she meant that what a humiliation and an embarrassment it is to all of mankind for humans to fight one another and for discrimination to even take place. Then she writes “I rise” by writing this she is saying that, whatever has happened in history she has know risen above. One thing that I had noticed was that at the start of the poem and through the middle Maya wrote “I’ll rise” and toward the end it was “I rise” I thought that this stud as a symbol and had a meaning. My interpretation was that Maya had written this because she was showing that after all the hard work and hard times she has fought through, finally she has got were she has always wanted.
“Up from a past that’s rooted in pain I rise” This showed the reader how much pain she has been thorough and not only her but her family and her generations. We know this because she writes the word “rooted”. The word rooted has a significant effect because just like the roots of a tree keep growing and have different braches. In the same way pain has passed through her generations and know finally she is the one to stand up and stop this “I rise”.
“I am a black ocean, leaping and wide, welling and swelling I bear In the tide, leaving behind nights of terror and fear behind” I thought that this was a powerful stanza because Maya was rendering an image to the reader of her courage and power, and also inner strength.
By saying that she is an ocean, first of all, she uses a metaphor and I thought that increased the effect and secondly if you are an ocean then how can anyone escape you and she is showing that if anyone wants to fight then they will never be able to escape. My analysis was that she was an ocean carrying fish and plants (people), and without that ocean, these fish and plants would suffer, in the same way, the black people would suffer from discrimination.
To add to this I thought that she is saying that knows she has a responsibility to carry these people and to protect them, in a way she is expressing that this gift she has been given has to know been unveiled, and she knows where she has always wanted to be, she has power and no one can stop her, in the same way, no one can eradicate an ocean. The fact that she is saying that she is leaping far and wide shows us that she is still fighting for freedom and knowledge for all the black people in the world.
“Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear I rise” here, Maya emphasizes the point that knows that she has this power, ahead of her lies a future that is so clear and exciting.
“Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave me rise” Maya Angelou used the metaphor “gifts” which really made me think about what I was reading, by saying this is made the line emotive. She is saying that for years this gift has been passing on, and yet no one has been successful enough to unveil it and to use it, and know that person is her. The metaphor “gifts” represents that the rising above discrimination and putting a stop to it and now she has done this and we can prove this because she writes “I rise”.
The very last few lines of the poem were ” I am the dream and hope of the slave, I rise, I rise, I rise” I thought that Maya really summarized the whole poem by saying this because after all her goal was for blacks to have rights, for blacks to have their freedom, for blacks to unveil the gifts that they all have, and for them to live up to high expectations, and by saying “I rise, I rise, I rise” shows that she has done this and succeeded and know she has changed the lives of all black people In the world. I realized that towards the end of the poem instead of using anger to convey the message instead Maya used emotion and hope, and by doing this it really made the reader believe that whatever happens in the world Maya will always rise above it.
Now I am going to give a brief summary on the life of Tatamkhulu Afrika.
Born in 1920, Afrika was born and bought up in Cape Town, South Africa; he had an Arab father and a Turkish mother. In Africa people were classed according to the colour of their skin, However, Afrika turned down the chance to be classed as white as he chose to become Muslim which in that time was categorized as coloured. Later on in his years he joined the African national congress and but 3 years he was arrested for terrorism and was banned from writing or speaking in public for 5 years. He died shortly after his 82nd birthday; he was run over by a bus just 2 weeks after the publication of his final novel “bitter Eden” he left a number of unpublished works, poems, plays, and novels.
I will start now by analyzing the first stanza.
In the first few lines of the first stanza, he renders an image of district six and mentions some of its characteristics here I will give a few examples, “Small round hard stones click under my heels. In the first quotation he talks about that in district six, the governments haven’t taken much care to build roads, and this leads me to think, that it would be very rare to see any modern means of transport. Then it follows on “seeding grasses thrust bearded seeds into trouser cuffs” he explains that, no one is bothered to cut the wheat and when you walk the wheat is in your trouser cuffs. Moreover, I thought that these two words “thrust” and “bearded” gave an unwelcoming feel to the reader. “cans trodden on” This gives the reader a feel that district six is a place where nobody cares, nobody can be bothered to throw their litter in the bin its just dumped on the floor. Tatamkhulu rounds the first stanza off by saying “crunch in tall, purple flowering, amiable weeds” after talking about the uncut wheat and the litter on the floor, he then says that even though district six has all these problems he is used to this he sees them as friends, and a part of him.
The second stanza starts with the poet writing “District six, no board says it is, but my feet know, and my hands, and the skin about my bones, and the soft labouring of my lungs” To increase tension Afrika has used repetition, by starting the verse of by “and” three times. He demonstrates that even though there are no signs that say its district six, inside him he know it is, if you look in more detail at the quotation you realize that the poet is conveying the message that he has already been here “my feet” and “my hands” and “labouring of my lungs” by saying that his feet know and his hands it proves that he has been here before because his feet remember the “clicking stones under his heels” and his lungs remember the polluted atmosphere that was caused by litter “cans trodden on”.
In the next two lines of the poem Afrika has used anger to express his feelings. “And the hot, white, inward turning anger of my eyes” by writing white with two commas on either side, from my experience by doing this the reader focuses more on this word “white” Afrika has deliberately done this to increase the tension and to make the reader think just how angry he is. Just like when you heat coal up, and it reaches its hottest, it turns white.
Now I will start by analyzing the third stanza
“Brash with glass, name flaring like a flag it squats, in the grass and weeds”
In this quotation, Tatamkhulu Afrika first describes the appearance of the building he says the word brash, this means to stand out too much and be energetic and boastful. Then it says “name flaring like a flag it squats, in the grass and weeds” this explains to the reader that this building and the name of it just sits there( squats), it doesn’t belong their and doesn’t fit in with the visual surrounding, in this case, the “grass” and “weeds” that surround the building. Afrika has used two powerful describing verbs “brash” and “squats” this significantly increases the tension and makes the line dramatic.
In the next few lines that I am going to analyze, the poet describes his negative experiences.
“Incipient port Jackson trees, new up market haute cuisine Guard at the gate post white’s only inn” incipient port Jackson trees where shipped to Africa from America in the late 1970 when the district six was being colonized by whites. His negative experiences comes from the fact that there is a new market and a haute cuisine, however, there is a guard at the gate post making sure no black person comes in, “whites only inn” Afrika feels that blacks are being dejected in their own land.
“No sign says it is but we know were we belong”
What is Afrika’s attitude towards whites?
Afrika does not express his feeling through anger he expresses them through sarcasm we can prove this because he writes “we know where we belong” he is referring to the black people, saying that the whites have their cuisine and new markets but we know where we belong. Moreover, Afrika deliberately uses a small stanza, this gives it exceptional flair which increases the tension of this stanza and attracts the reader’s attention.
In this next stanza, I will be studying in-depth and showing Tatamkhulu’s negative experiences.
His negative experience is the fact that there is still segregation between whites and blacks and nothing has changed, no one has cared to do anything about it he feels that black is being dejected. We know this because he writes “I press my nose to clear the panes, know before I see them, there will be crushed ice white glass, linen falls, the single rose” Afrika is trying to get the message that the white people are treated well, with luxury and comfort “linen falls, the single rose” but then in the next verse he compares this to how blacks are treated “working men cafï sells bunny chows. Take it with you, eat it at the top of a plastic table, wipe your fingers on your jeans spit a little on the floor: it’s in the bone”. Afrika uses a juxtaposition I thought that this was a really clever technique because it showed the reader how vulgar and old fashioned the black mans cafï¿½ was. Here he talks about that if you go into a white man s cafï¿½ they have tissues at the table top and crushed ice in a white glass. However if you walk into a black mans cafï¿½ then you eat on a plastic table top, wiping your hands on your jeans.
The poet purposely compares the linen falls and the plastic table because this gives the reader a feel that just because of the color of their skin they get treated differently.
In these next few pages I will be analyzing the similarities in the style, use of linguistic techniques, and the structure and layout of the poem.
Tatamkhulu and Maya both have a lot of similarities regarding their background and childhood. I think their writing represents their childhood and how they have been treated and the terrible times they have been through. Because of this it makes an enormous impact on the reader, now I will give an example. Maya writes “a past that’s rooted in main” this is a very emotive line and represents Maya’s background, she tells us that all these years she has been through this torment and her background proves this. The word “root” shows that it’s not only her who has been tormented, but it’s her ancestors as well that have been through slavery and injustice. Just like the roots of a tree have different channels and can be very long, however, they all do the same job.
Then Tatamkhulu also shows this, but he does this in a slightly different but clever way and I did not see Maya use this in her poem, but if she did I think her poem would have been much more effective. He writes “no board says it is but we know were we belong” by saying the word “we” he is referring to the blacks and saying that even though there isn’t any board we know where we are going. He uses sarcasm to get his point threw to the reader, and I think that it’s a really effective way.
Another linguistic technique that I saw was repetition, which was used by both writers in an exceptional way to get through to the point. I noticed that Maya repeated the same word “ill rise” after the end of every stanza. I think that this had a big influence on each stanza because the reader pays more attention to the words that have been repeated, therefore taking into consideration the meanings of the word being repeated.
In this case, Maya was portraying the message that whatever they do whether it’s their bitter lies or the discrimination; she will always rise above this, whatever happens, and by repeating this at end of every stanza just shows how much courage, enthusiasm, and determination Maya Angelou has got.
Repetition was also used by Tatamkhulu Afrika, however, he used this in a slightly different style, and however I don’t think that it was as effective as Angelou’s, this was because it wasn’t repeated enough times for the reader to truly believe that he was fully committed to ending the segregation between whites and blacks.
The title of the poem was “nothings changed” and Tatamkhulu repeated this at the end, this showed the reader how frustrated he was the see that nothing could be done about the segregation between whites and blacks and that nothing had been done. By repeating this it did not only increase the effect it had on the stanza but showed and represented the poet’s feelings. Tatamkhulu ended his poem in more of an emotional way whereas Maya ended her poem in more of a forgiving and confident way.
I will be looking at the style of the poem and the way they have used anger to portray the message and their similarities.
I think that because the 2 poets used anger it had an immense impact on the reader because it made you think twice about what you were reading.
I thought that both poets did this exceptionally well. In the poem nothings changed, Tatamkhulu Afrika showed his anger to represent his feelings he did this on many occasions, I will just analyze a few of these. Afrika writes in his poem “the hot, white, inward-turning anger of my eyes” I thought this was an outstanding line which really did show the poets feelings. The word white really showed the reader how angry Afrika actually was, just like when you heat something up as it gets hotter the color starts to change and when it’s at its hottest then it turns white, I thought this was a really effective line which really engrossed the reader.
One other example was when Tatamkhulu wrote “hands burn for a stone, a bomb, to shiver down the glass” here he is also conveying the message through anger and saying that his “hands burn for a stone” by this he means that inside him there is this precipitation to break the barrier between whites and blacks “to shiver down the glass” and the fact that he writes “hands burn” shows the longing he has inside him break up this segregation between whites and blacks and his desperation.
Maya also used the same technique to convey her message, she writes “you may write me down in history with your bitter twisted lies, you may trod me in very dirt but still like dust I’ll rise”. She uses harsh words “bitter” “twisted” ,however Maya uses the same method but using a different style, she is pin pointing the reader. It seems as though she is blaming the reader, I thought this was a very good method of getting the point across because this made the reader guilty. More over, I think that if Afrika had used the same method his poem would have been more effective.
Similarities in structure use
From my opinion the structure of the stanza was really important because it increased the effect, which in return had a significant effect on the poem, here I will give a few examples: Tatamkhulu Afrika used this technique a lot in his poem.
In the 7th stanza of his poem Afrika purposely wrote a very small stanza, “No board says it is, but we know were we belong” I thought that this stanza had exceptional flair, it really caught my attention, Afrika deliberately did this because first of all it increases tension and he wanted people to know just how they are being treated and how difficult it is for them to live excluded from other parts of the town. The word white has to commas on either side this is because he wants us to pay more attention to that word white.
Then again Afrika used the same style again “and the hot, white, inward-turning anger of my eyes” Afrika is showing us his anger. The word white has to commas on either side this is because he wants us to pay more attention to that word white.
Now I will give another example in still ill rise.
I thought Maya Angelou structured her poem exceptionally well. After every other stanza Maya wrote I’ll rise, I’ll rise; I’ll rise on separate lines. In my opinion, I thought that by doing this it made the reader one hundred percent sure that Maya was absolutely committed, and it showed how desperate she is and how much courage she has, and how much commitment.
One language technique that I thought was brilliant was the fact that Tatamkhulu could show and describe the contrasts in the way blacks and whites were treated. I thought that this had an immense effect because it made the line emotional. One example of this was “I press my nose to clear the panes, know before I see them there will be crushed ice white glass, linen falls, the single rose” he shows the luxury and the quality that whites have been given, and the contrasts this with “down the road working mans cafï¿½ sells bunny chows, take it with you, eat it at the top of a plastic table, wipe your fingers on your jeans, spit a little on the floor: it’s in the bone” he shows the difference in luxury between a white and blacks cafï¿½ and because he did this I thought that it was very effective and created emotion and made the reader feel sorry for blacks. On the other hand, I thought that if Maya did this her poem would have been a little more effective.
One more thing that I spotted was that both writers ended their poems differently.
These surprised me because they were both black and were fighting the same problem.
Maya Angelou ended her poem with “I am the dream and hope of the slave, I rise, I rise, I rise” she showed a sense of achievement and hope, because by saying “I rise” three times showed the reader that she has her accomplished her mission of rising and ending above discrimination.
On the other hand, Tatamkhulu ended his anger and irritation by saying “hands burn for a stone, a bomb to shiver down the glass, nothing changed”.
Here he showed anger however there was a sense of hope, but by writing this, it told the reader that there was still discrimination between whites and blacks, But this made the reader feel emotional whereas Maya’s was more a feeling of accomplishment.
To summarize, I thought that the two poems were exceptional, however, I enjoyed Maya Angelou’s most. This was because she blamed the reader and doing this it made the reader feel emotional. Although “nothing’s changed” was exceptional I still thought that Maya’s was slightly better.
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