Maya Angelou: An Appreciation

May 28, 2014

Maya AngelouMaya Angelou: Poet for a People

April 4, 1928- May 28, 2014





The passing of Maya Angelou raises the question, “What happens when a great tree falls in the forest?” Angelou was aliterary voice who commanded the world’s attention.

Maya unapologetically drew her poetry and writing from the black southern tradition. Commenting on her literary works, she said, “I find in my poetry and prose the rhythms and imagery of the best — when I’m at my best — of the good Southern black preachers. The lyricism of the spirituals and the directness of gospel songs and the mystery of blues are in my music, are in my poetry and prose, or I’ve missed everything.

Her poetic genius gave voice to the voiceless, hope to the hopeless, and vision to the blind.

Even death will not silence her voice, for in her own words:

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.

And thus it is her resilient spirit, her creativity in the face of adversity that we honor, we remember, and we embrace. Her works, infused with hope and possibility, will trump her physical death.

She speaks to and will continue to communicate and inform those young girls and women who are submerged beneath the shadow standards of “American beauty.” She will lift up these women and informs them that despite what others may think or approve of, they are in fact phenomenal women:

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,   

The stride of my step,   

The curl of my lips.   

I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,   

That’s me.

And so, on this day of her passing, it is proper and fitting that we honor a phenomenal woman forever- Maya Angelou.

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