The persona appears to have a shameful as well as painful distant past as in "Out of the huts of history's shame I rise," and "Up from a past that's rooted in pain, I rise." But she is holding her head high now. What the poem seems to promise is a fighting mode of one who has been a "slave" for some time - perhaps according to how society saw her kind, and how society used to treat her kind - properly or improperly. Now, it should be different because I am back with revenge, the persona asserts. She is not going to take things as usual.
Readers at a disadvantage can relate with this poem: the women, the poor, the marginalized, the downtrodden, the colored people, those who have less in life, the labourer, the slaves, and whoever occupy a subordinate role in life. The poem can be said to offer music, rhythm, magic, mystery and beauty. It is a powerful and empowering anthem with a universal message of eternal optimism. The self-affirmation is admirable. This is an amazingly powerful poem. But not until you look closely into the finer points of the poem. This paper will look into the poem line per line and comment.
"You may trod me in the very dirt but still, like dust, I'll rise." Trod is past tense for tread and should be corrected to read "tread." "Sassiness" in "Does my sassiness upset you" either is not in universal use, but "sassy" is. "Does the sassy me upset you" would make a better line.
"Did you want to see me broken Bowed head and lowered eyes" I find something missing here even as to timing. If she had inserted "With," it would sound better as in -"Did you want to see me broken With bowed head and lowered eyes"
"Shoulders falling down like teardrops. Weakened by my soulful cries." How do shoulders fall down like teardrops At least the writer should have used "bending down." Since tears do not bend down, this calls for a change of words. "Shoulders bending down from weight of years" is a logical substitution. When you add, "Weakened by my soulful cries," the imagery is made more powerful. Poems should also be logical as messages - not just a conglomeration of words and words.
"I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the tide." "Wide is better off as "wild" to go with leaping. Wide has no action in it to help in the welling of the tide - but "wild" has much of it. Little things like one letter make much difference. It appears that the writer has not spent some time correcting her piece and looking into the effects of her words.
The rest of the poem makes use of imagery powerfully - until again one tries to look closely into the use of contrast in the images. The writer makes a skewed juxtaposition between sassiness, haughtiness, and sexiness with oil wells pumping in my living room, gold mines
diggin' in my own back yard, and diamonds at the meeting of my thighs. The supposed strength that the poem gathers is therefore weakened by this seeming misaligned contest of contrasting images of a loose woman jeering at a powerful other. Stated in the perception of the feminine persona, the scorned woman now boasts of oil wells, gold mines, and diamonds - all symbols of material prosperity which she seems to equate to freedom and liberation. And she