“When I try to describe myself to God I say, ‘Lord, remember me? Black? Female? Six-foot tall? The writer?’ And I almost always get God’s attention.” –Maya Angelou
I woke up this morning to the news that Maya Angelou was dead. As ever when someone dies, I am torn between hungers: what to write? To write about her (and what her life means to so many) or about me (and what her death does/means to me)?
She is the face of Poetry for our generation. Her work (and her life!) is inspiring and unambiguous. Here then are many of the faces of Maya Angelou.
Maya Angelou had a complicated relationship with her mother, Vivian Baxter, which she examines in her book “Mom & Me & Mom”.
She counted many important activists, leaders, artists and politicians among her friends.
Much quoted today are these lines from Maya’s poem ” His Day is Done” on the death of Nelson Mandela.
No sun outlasts its sunset
But will rise again
And bring the dawn
Here is the poem in its entirety.
Here is CNN’s video to Angelou’s reciting her epic “And Still I Rise”.
As their send-off to Dr. Angelou, a friend of mine posted to Facebook the following poem by Gwendolyn Brooks. To which I say: This. Yes, this.
the rites for Cousin Vit
Carried her unprotesting out the door.
Kicked back the casket-stand. But it can’t hold her,
That stuff and satin aiming to enfold her,
The lid’s contrition nor the bolts before.
Oh oh. Too much. Too much. Even now, surmise,
She rises in the sunshine. There she goes,
Back to the bars she knew and the repose
In love-rooms and the things in people’s eyes.
Too vital and too squeaking. Must emerge.
Even now she does the snake-hips with a hiss,
Slops the bad wine across her shantung, talks
Of pregnancy, guitars and bridgework, walks
In parks or alleys, comes haply on the verge
Of happiness, haply hysterics. Is.
Gwendolyn Brooks (from Annie Allen, 1950 and Blacks, 1994)