Phenomenal Woman

Angelou, Maya

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Terry, James
  • Date of entry: Nov-15-1994
  • Last revised: Jun-08-2010


In four proud stanzas, the poet reveals her self-confidence, her graceful rhythm and style, and the inner strength of her femininity. Rather than fashion-magazine beauty, she exults in things like "the stride of my step" or "the swing in my waist "or "the ride of my breasts". In the final stanza she asserts, "When you see me passing / It ought to make you proud." Each stanza closes with the refrain: "I’m a woman / Phenomenally. / Phenomenal woman, / That’s me."


The interior standard for beauty and self-worth goes back to Whitman and others. Phenomenology of the body makes a nice philosophical dovetail with this kind of poetic sentiment. While cataloging her strengths by separate phenomena, Angelou cannot resist making clever use of another meaning of the word, "phenomenal"--outstanding, excellent--and strutting just a bit at her power over "the fellows." But the enduring feeling of the poem is still inner pride not related to traditional notions of beauty or attractiveness--a truly enviable self-image.

Primary Source

And Still I Rise


Random House

Place Published

New York