In Remembrance of Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

MayaAngelouSubmitted by Elaine Magliaro

Maya Angelou—poet/writer/activist/teacher—published many literary works during her lifetime. Her most notable work—I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings—is her 1969 autobiography about her early years. Angelou died at her home in North Carolina on May 28th. She was eighty-six years old. Yesterday morning, members of her family, her friends, and dignitaries gathered together at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for a memorial service in honor of Angelou.

 

Funeral Service Held For Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s words speak more eloquently than anything that I could write about her. I think it best to post excerpts from some of her most well-known poems–as well as a few videos of her reciting her own poetry.

Dr. Maya Angelou Recites Her Poem “Phenomenal Woman”

Maya Angelou’s Poem “On the Pulse of Morning” (Read at Bill Clinton’s 1993 Inauguration)

Maya Angelou Still I Rise

 

Excerpt from  Still I Rise

 

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.

 

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

 

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

Weakened by my soulful cries?

 

Click here to read the rest of the poem.

 

Maya Angelou’s masterpiece “Caged Bird”

 

Excerpt from Caged Bird

 

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn

and he names the sky his own

 

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

 

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.

Click here to read the rest of the poem.

*****

One of the things that I hadn’t known about Angelou until recently was that she was a big fan of country music. Writing in Rolling Stone, Belville Dunkerley said that Angelou “found a kindred spirit in the genre known for its vivid storytelling.” Dunkerley said that Angelou’s favorite country song was Lee Ann Womack’s Grammy-winner “I Hope You Dance”—which Womack was asked to perform at the late poet’s funeral.

Womack said that she and her two daughters once met Angelou in Chicago. Womack added that she was at first intimidated—“but quickly calmed by the legendary writer’s congeniality.”

Excerpt from Dunkerley’s Rolling Stone article:

“I was honored, moved and thrilled about everything she said to me about the song and my singing,” Womack remembers. “But all these years later, the song remained? That says so much about the power of music and poetry: the way the human condition can be filtered down in a song. Keeping it real and honest, but also maintaining the love in your heart and compassion…. That makes for an excellent life, and that’s what I think Maya Angelou found in the song.”

I agree with Womack about the power of both music and poetry. I have been an avid reader and writer of poetry for decades. The best songs are poetry put to music.

Lee Ann Womack – I Hope You Dance

President Barack Obama presenting Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011

Angelou_Obama

 

 

 

SOURCES & FURTHER READING

Maya Angelou Bio (Maya Angelou’s Website)

Exclusive: Lee Ann Womack to Perform at Maya Angelou’s Funeral–Country singer had special place in late author’s heart – and in her music collection (Rolling Stone)

Funeral for Maya Angelou Draws Mourners to Winston-Salem (NY1)

 

This entry was posted in Literature, Music, Poetry and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to In Remembrance of Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

  1. eniobob says:

    My mother in law and I (may she rest in peace) were watching a news report a couple of years ago and they were showing a funeral,and they were showing the cars the flowers the mourners.And she turned to me and said”show it to me while I’m here not after I’m gone”.in her case I believed it was shown to her while she was here,and I think Maya Angelou also saw the fruits of her labor while she was here.

  2. Anonymouly Yours says:

    Very influential on many a folks.

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