On Wednesday, July 17, U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar responded to yet another Presidential twitter attack with the compelling poetic images from one of the country’s greatest poets, 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.”
For the next several days, Still I Rise became the most searched for poem on the Internet. Instead of the vitriol utilized by the President, Representative Omar had given the American public words of hope and empowerment. Angelou’s poetic voice had touched the minds and imaginations of millions of people. Poetry that shows us it is possible to move forward with grace and away from the political hatreds that define our days.
Like all bibliophiles, I wanted more poetry that describes the anguish and anxieties of this summer. I was affected by the wisdom of Joy Harjo with her advice on engaging with the enemy; by the realism of Langston Hughes and the inclusion we need to fight for; Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s rousing call to America to examine and change; and Emily Dickinson’s reminders that we all carry the griefs of daily living.
“This Morning I Pray for My Enemies” by Joy Harjo
And whom do I call my enemy?
I turn in the direction of the sun and keep walking.
It’s the heart that asks the questions, and not my furious mind.
The heart is the smaller cousin of the sun.
“I Am Waiting” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
“I look at the world” by Langston Hughes
I look at the world
From awakening eyes in a black face—
And this is what I see:
This fenced-off narrow space
Assigned to me.
“I measure every Grief I meet” by Emily Dickinson
I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes—
I wonder if It weighs like Mine—
Or has an Easier size.
I wonder if They bore it long—
Or did it just begin—
I could not tell the Date of Mine—
It feels so old a pain—
“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 spring high,
Still I’ll rise.