The first two lines of "Still I Rise" establish the antagonistic relationship between the speaker, implied to be a black woman, and her oppressor, addressed throughout simply as "you." The speaker accepts that her oppressor has the power to write "lies" about the speaker and present them as historical facts. This suggests that the "you" here represents society as a whole, and more specifically white society.
Historical narratives are typically shaped by the perspective of the powerful—and, in the U.S., white people have long been those with the most power in society. The speaker is thus alluding to the idea that the experiences of oppressed and marginalized peoples have long been filtered through a distant and unsympathetic (if not outright racist) perspective. The speaker here is thus talking back to a world that has tried to suppress her voice, insisting that her truth and spirit will rise above whatever falsehoods a prejudiced society wants to spread.
Furthermore, by addressing the oppressor figure as "you" through the use of apostrophe, Angelou suggests the reader may also be implicated in racist social structures and attitudes. Angelou thus asks her poem's readers to question their own privilege and prejudices toward blackness.
The speaker also allows that her oppressor may step on her ("trod") and crush her into the dirt. This oppressor clearly has little care for the speaker. And, as highlighted through anaphora of the phrase "You may," the speaker has no power to literally stop this from happening.
Nevertheless, the speaker will rise above this humiliation. In the fourth and final line of the stanza, the speaker uses a simile to compare her rise to that of dust kicked up when stamping on the ground. There is also a subtle biblical allusion in the image of this rising dust: in the Bible, humans are said to be created by God from "dust" and to return to "dust" upon death. By stating that she is "like dust," the speaker asserts that she, too, is a creation of God and is equal to anyone else. In doing so, the speaker demands her oppressor and society as a whole recognize her full humanity.
The meter of the first stanza is also worth noting. The first three lines contain a series of trochees in its pattern of stressed-unstressed syllables:
... write me down in history
... bitter, twisted lies,
... trod me in the very dirt
The so-called "falling rhythm" of the trochees reflect the negativity of the first three lines, namely the speaker's acknowledgement of her oppressor's ability to humiliate her. However, the meter changes to iambic (unstressed-stressed) in the last line of the stanza:
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
The shift to "rising meter" not only reflects the "rise" of the speaker, but also stands in direct contrast to the negative tone of the first three lines. The final spondee (stressed-stressed) of "I'll rise" also adds extra strength and emphasis to this phrase.
In terms of overall structure, this first and following six stanzas are all quatrains. Within each quatrain, the second and fourth lines rhyme with one another, while the first and third lines do not. In this first quatrain, the rhyme scheme is thus ABCB.
In rhyming "lies" with "rise," the poem emphasizes that the speaker is able to directly counter the "lies" of the oppressor with her "rise." This emphasis reiterates the power of the speaker's "rise."
In a larger sense, by establishing a formal structure at the beginning, the poem creates an opportunity to later subvert that structure in defiance of the reader's expectations. This subversion will be an interesting echo of the subversion in meter and tone within the first stanza itself.