Quoted from Saved by a Poem, by Kim Rosen, about poet C.C. Carter (pages 27-29)
C.C. was not always so at home in herself and her body. At the age of 11, she wanted to die. Her father was a minister and had to change parishes frequently, so her family was constantly moving.
On top of that, her body started to change. “I was from a family of very full-figured women.”
“I literally wanted to check out of here. My grandmother sensed this and gave me Dr. Angelo’s poem ‘Phenomenal Woman.’ She told me to put it on my mirror. Every morning before I walked out of my room I was to read it.”
That poem saved C.C.’s life. Its medicine brought her back to herself from the barrage of insults, invasion, and loneliness she faced at school.
“I learned how to use poetry to silence my enemies—spouting off to the bullies in the hallway, ‘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.’ Or to the mean, snotty girls, ‘Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. / I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size.’ Every time I hit an obstacle, there was Dr. Maya Angelou, and a poem, and my grandmother.”
Listen: Dr. Maya Angelou Recites Her Poem "Phenomenal Woman"