Dang! We just lost Gabo García Márguez and now Phenomenal Angel Maya Angelou has fluttered forth, as well. My guess is that these brilliant ones are tangoing together on the tail of a comet. Toss in Pablo Neruda and V. Woolf (just because I adore her) and you’ve got a celestial party for sure. Did you know that, in addition to being a whirlwind writer/poet, Maya was also a singer and a dancer? In the the 1950s she was a professional calypso performer in clubs in the San Francisco area. In 1957, she recorded her first album, Miss Calypso, and then later she performed off-Broadway in a calypso review. Here’s a clip.

Oh la la!

Maya was an elegant, multitalented, indefatigable artist who followed her passions. But what I will never forget about her is her poem “Phenomenal Woman.” The first time I read it I was utterly blown away. Here was a woman who allowed herself to be bold, powerful and proud of who she was. It opened the door for me to just be me, to be okay with my own wabi sabi uniqueness, and for that I am forever grateful. Listen to Maya as she recites “Phenomenal Woman.”  The complete text of the poem is written below.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
The palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman” from And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.


Maya Angelou
April 4, 1928-May 28, 2014

Photos Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

12 thoughts on “Miss Calypso Dances On

  1. I devoured all her books beginning with IKWTCBS when I was quite young, and was enthralled with her ability to turn a phrase. I have a notebook full of her phrases and quotes that I compiled over time. It did not begin as a collection of Maya Angelou quotes, but it ended up being that because I could not put down her books.
    She was one one my greatest literary inspirations, and more so as a female person who overcame so much adversity with eloquence and grace.
    Thank you for this lovely tribute.


    • DB, that’s a lovely testimony! Maya’s powerful influence on you is tangible. You’re a fine writer. Which bring this to mind, when are you gonna write a few more posts, darlin’? You’ve certainly got some stories to tell! ❤


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