Maya Angelou: A Poet and Hero to Remember

67
251
Reach for the stars quotation
An inspiring quote from Maya Angelou. Image by Christy B.

Maya Angelou is a woman I admire for so many reasons. She wrote amazing poetry, for one. She also spoke her mind intelligently as a civil rights activist and refused to be held down as a woman. This African American woman has been a personal literary hero of sorts for many years now, as part of a select group of authors I look up to. She spoke and wrote words that made me stop and ponder about life, as well as helping me to realize that female poets can achieve so much.

When she passed away in 2014, I remember being so overcome with sadness and writing many of the following words on my poetry blog. Today, I realize that my time is better used rejoicing for her brilliant mind that she shared in books, public speeches, and interviews. Her inspiring words live on.

Inspiring woman she is!
A smile from Maya. Photo by York College ISLGP, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr.

Poems by Maya Angelou

While she may be best known for her 1969 autobiographical book “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” I can’t say enough how much her poetry has resonated with me. Here some of my favorite poems from her:

Awakening in New York – This is my top pick for her poems. It captures the city of New York so well and the line “stretching into dawn” has many layers of meaning. Two years ago, I wrote a full analysis of the Maya Angelou poem. I plan to share this analysis soon here on the blog.

Still I Rise – This poem reminds us to never give up, no matter what is thrown our way. The words dance a fine line between bitter, oppressed, and sass. Her confident voice tells of how she has refused to be held down by racist attitudes, with such a personal tone to this poem that commands you continue to read it.

A Brave and Startling Truth – This poem has strong imagery and speaks to how she was not afraid to tackle controversial issues. She understood that the abuse is something we need to confront and used words of poetry to do so. Her words slide effortlessly across the page while depicting such struggle – the irony is not lost on me.

So Many Dreams Realized

The range of roles and accomplishments she achieved is not lost on me. Starting her career as a dancer and singer, she would go on to publish amazing poetry and prose. As if this was not enough, she was a teacher of American studies at several post-secondary institutions and also a screenwriter. Did I also mention that former-President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010?

These accomplishments were diverse and yet still connected under her platform of resilience, leadership, and unapologetic confidence. It is a reminder that you are not restricted to one thing. Yes, I wrote two poetry books, but I still can blog and write fiction too. You too can expand how you see yourself, using Maya’s many accomplishments as an example.

Reach for the stars quotation
An inspiring quote from Maya Angelou. Image by Christy B.

Maya Angelou’s Motivational Quotes

Many times her quoted words have left me breathless. She had a way of connecting with both young and old – there was no age limit to who she could reach. How could that be? Because, words – in her quotes, poems, and books – could reach through to the ageless heart of many people. Here are some wonderful quotes from her:

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

“Be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud.”

“I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life.”

“People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

And, taking the line from that last quote above, Maya Angelou did and still does make me feel powerful. Her words touch me as women, poet, and author. She gave me hope of rising from abuse and finding therapy in my words. Rest in peace, dear Maya, and we promise to keep your words close to our hearts.

 

67 COMMENTS

  1. Christy, I recall having commented on your 2014 post about Maya Angelou and here I am on an encore because she is one of my favourite poets. When sublime poetry chooses to blossom through the downtrodden and oppressed, the world sees a flower called Maya Angelou.

  2. I read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” years ago and loved it, but for some reason I haven’t read much of her poetry. The Still I Rise poem gave me chills. I’ll have to read more of her poetry now – thank you!

  3. Maya Angelou was one of my heroes, too. I remember when she passed away: the director of the school where I work asked me to write a post on behalf of the school and share some quotes about her on social media. Incredible lady, she was, and her amazing spirit was so strong that so many of us feel her in our hearts, even these few years after her passing.
    The “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” poem put her on the map, but I knew I was in love with her writing when she spoke at Bill Clinton’s inaugural address in 1992. I was in 7th grade and sat down to watch it on TV. She mesmerized me even then: everything she overcame and how powerful her words are!! Thank you for sharing this. I want to go back and re-read some of her poetry because I feel more of a calling to incorporate poetry into my writing these days. On another note, I’m missing your Poetic Parfait blog – I know you’re over here and I’m infinitely glad – I just find myself sometimes typing in that web address to get my dose of poetry. LOL. Sending you hugs, Dear One. May you have a wonderful week!

    • Thanks for saying that about the poetry blog. I’m not saying I won’t write any more poetry but I’m still figuring it all out.. I miss it too.. Thanks for sharing your memory of Maya at Clinton’s inaugural address. That was a moment when so many people stopped to watch her and learn… I feel even closer to you for sharing this hero. xo

  4. Hi Christy,

    I love to read about great people, and Maya is definitely great woman.”Still I Rise is beautiful poem, really great reminder that we never give up.
    ” Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
    I rise
    Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
    I rise”….brilliant

    Thank you for sharing

  5. A few years ago a friend lent me a collection of 3 CDs of Maya Angelou’s writing. I can’t be sure, but I think they may have been read by Maya also. They were inspirational. I join you in your tribute. I’m sad to say that I didn’t know of her before her passing, but what a great legacy she left to inspire us and future generations. The quotes you have shared are wonderful, and I look forward to reading your analysis of her poem.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.