The poet uses many similes and metaphors throughout the poem:
"But still, like air, I'll rise" (simile)—No matter what the speaker's oppressors do to harm her, she will rise above the challenges, just as air rises.
"But still, like dust, I'll rise" (simile)—As in the air simile, the speaker will rise above the pain her oppressors try to inflict, just as dust rises in the air.
"I walk like I've got oil wells" (simile)—The speaker is so confident in her demeanor that she walks with a swagger that suggests the wealth of a person who has struck oil.
"Just like moons and like suns" (simile)—The speaker compares the certainty of her courage and persistent determination to the certainty and repetitive patterns of the lunar and solar cycles.
"I laugh like I've got gold mines" (simile)—The speaker laughs with the confidence of someone who is wealthy, as if gold has been discovered in her own backyard. She may not be wealthy in a financial sense, but she possesses a great wealth of spirit and hope.
"You may trod me in the very dirt" (metaphor)—The speaker states that even if her oppressor tries to trample on her as one might trample an object or living creature in the dirt, she will still rise. The speaker is not literally squashed by the oppressor, but the oppressor nonetheless tries to trample on her spirit.
"You may shoot me with your words" (metaphor)—The speaker refers to the violence of shooting with a gun, but she uses the metaphor to illustrate instead the pain of her oppressor's hateful language. She will not be pierced by the harshness of his words.
"You may cut me with your eyes" (metaphor)—The speaker refers to violence again, this time using the example of cutting, as with a knife. However, she refers to the oppressor's cruel looks as so painful and hurtful that his regard is sharp and cutting, like a knife.
"You may kill me with your hatefulness" (metaphor)--The oppressor's hatefulness could literally kill her, but in this line the speaker speaks of death metaphorically. The oppressor's hate toward her might kill her spirit, but she will still rise above the pain.
"I'm a black ocean" (metaphor)—The speaker refers to herself as a powerful force of nature. She is as strong and as majestic as the ocean, and the term "black" denotes her race. She is a powerful black woman.
"I am the dream and the hope of the slave" (metaphor)—The speaker embodies the hopes and dreams of her slave ancestors. She wants to achieve all that they were unable to do.
"Did you want to see me broken" (metaphor)—The speaker refers to a broken spirit.
"Shoulders falling down like teardrops" (simile)—The speaker refers to being sad to the point that one's shoulders droop down or collapse, just as tears fall.
"Dance like I've got diamonds at the meeting of my thighs" (simile)—The speaker dances sensually and possesses a wealth of spirit, rather than financial wealth. The diamonds represent wealth, luxury, and status, like that of a queen. She is a black queen, and the placement of diamonds between the legs suggests a sexual connotation.