Women work was written in 1928 by Maya Angelou. In the first scene of her poem “women work”, Maya Angelou sets the scene. She lacks use of punctuation in this verse, this could be because it is emphasising that there is no break in her life. She is always doing something.
“The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry
The baby to dry”,
The rhythm of this poem creates an image of endless tasks through out the day and also each last word rhymes with the line before, not only that but the sentences all end with a verb which is significant because it is telling us that she is constantly working and has no rests.
“Chicken to fry”
“Cane to be cut”
“Cotton to pick”
These lines of the poem imply that the woman in the poem is a black person in the U.S.A, which is tough because they were abused and owned by the white man and didn’t have the freedom of choice or speech.
“The garden to weed”
This suggests that the woman works not only inside but also outside, this is perhaps she relies on nature to help her feed her family, she is possibly some kind of farm worker, This women also has more than one child
“The tots to dress”
So maybe she cannot make enough money to buy food but has to manually grow it.
“Then see about the sick”
This woman possibly could not afford a doctor because they have to pay for Health Care in the U.S.A or possibly didn’t have the same opportunities because she was treated differently seeing as she was black.
“Cotton to pick”
Black people who were originally slaves were brought to America and worked on large cotton plantations, when Maya angelou refers to cotton she could be suggesting that the woman’s life isn’t far removed from slavery. She is a slave to the existence she lives.
The first verse of “heroines” has many similarities to women work, they both deal with hard working women and again lacks punctuation which gives the impression of chores faced coming one after another. Penny Windsor doesn’t use a rhyme scheme but does use other literacy strategy to build her poem in readers minds.
Language used is easy to understand and vocabulary such as Tesco and terraced houses indicate that the poem is placed in the U.K,
“We tug reluctant children up slanting streets
The push chair wheels wedging in the ruts
Breathless and bad tempered we shift the Tesco carrier bags from hand to hand and stop to watch the town.”
In the first verse of this poem the chores are looking after the children and shopping and her continuous use of the word “We” gives the idea that all the women are all the same. “Stop to watch the town”
This could suggest that the women are looking down at the rest of the town wishing that they can be like ordinary people shopping for the enjoyment and the freedom to do as they please.
The second verse of women work is a complete contrast to verse one. There are no rhyming couplets, also the poet uses commas to suggest some breathing space to the pace of the poem.
The first words in each line of this verse is almost like a command, she has to rely on nature to cool her down as she works,
“Shine on me, Shine
Rain on me, Rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again”
The last line of the second verse ends with again, which means that this has happened to her before in her life and relies on nature to cool her down and make her work easier. This sets the atmosphere of a hot dry day.
The second verse of Heroines starts with personification and simile,
“The hill tops creep away like children playing games
Our other children shriek against the school yard rails”
This means that as they get closer to the hill tops (completing their chores) there are always more chores to do so it seems that they will never get to the top, this creates a picture of women working non stop and never reach their true potential in life.
Also, in this verse the women become stereotyped in the lines “There’s Mandy’s mum, John’s mum, Dave’s mum, Kate’s mum, Cerie’s mother and Tracey’s mummy”
They have lost their individuality and only seen as mothers, personally I think that they haven’t got their own lives but they are providing the best for their children so when they grow they can live happily,
“Hands scarred by groceries”
this indicates that the women do lots of physical work which can also mean that they are single parents, but another reason could be that the women haven’t got the time to do their nails because they put their families first and they are too busy.
“Catching echoes as we pass of old wild games”
This line suggest that they are remembering their youth and the dreams they once had, the phrase catching echoes means that they are having flash backs of their childhood and realise how empty their lives have become.
The last three verses of women work again uses references to the world of nature,
“Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
‘Till I can rest again”
Maya Angelou asks the storm to blow her away from her present existence maybe because she is unhappy with the way she is living, she refers to nature a lot in her poem, this could because she has nothing to look forward to in life and enjoys the presence of nature, This verse is almost like a dream as in reality if she would not wish for storms as they cause damage.
The last line ends once more in “again”, this shows that she hasn’t rested in a long time and the only way she’ll get rest is in death.
The next verse which begins,
“fall gently, snowflakes”
contains softer images that could be symbolic of death. Maya Angelou realises that there is no escape from their life style only death will free her from the backbreaking toil of her life.
“Cover me in with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight”
Deceased bodies are usually cold and often covering in white sheets, and death is a final resting-place.
Final verse describes the natural beauties of this world,
“Sun rain, curving sky
Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
You’re all that I can call my own.”
Natures beauties can be shared by those who live the existence of a slave but this does create a picture of sadness for the reader because she worked hard all her life and to pass away not being able to accomplish anything is a very upsetting and depressing moment.
The third verse of Heroines continues to give the reader more examples of the daily chores faced by the women, they have to look after the house aswell as the family. Repetition in the last line probably shows hat they do this every day. This poem shows a better life for the women than the women in “women work” because there is food available and they are proud of their homes and try to keep them tidy.
“after lunch, more bread and butter, tea”
“And do the house and scrub the porch and sweep the street”
Out of the two poems I prefer women work because it had more feeling and I enjoyed reading it, I could really see what Maya Angelou was trying to tell the world, I also like the rhythm of the poem and the continuos repetition in the first verse.