Remembering Maya Angelou – In the Words of Poets

Remembering Maya Angelou- Poets Diane Sahms-Guarnieri  Mel Brake
Lamont B. Steptoe and Alice Wootson

maya-angelou- courtesy official websiteMaya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928. She rose from humble beginnings having worked as fry cook, prostitute, night-club dancer and performer to become a premier writer, poet, actor, director, civil rights leader. She was honored with the Reynolds Professorship of American Studies at Wake Forrest University.  In 1993 she read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning”, at Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Angelou’s literary achievements inspired many poets as well as her faith in the promise of America.

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Maya Angelou Remembered in the Words of Poets
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When I Die I’ll Live Again 
 By Diane Sahms-Guarnieri
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Maya Angelou’s book, Poems, was one of the first books of poetry I bought from Barnes and Noble in Jenkintown, PA.  Reading through Angelou’s internal rhymes there was an obvious musical quality to her poems, as they appeared on page after page; however, it wasn’t until I played a CD (included in a poetry anthology that I purchased at a later date) of her reading “Phenomenal Woman,” that Angelou’s strong spirit came alive. It was not just the musicality of her words, but it was also the great confidence she exuded and the somewhat intimidating strength of her very own voice that drew me to her.  A truly phenomenal woman who was not afraid to celebrate being a woman: “’Cause I’m woman / Phenomenally. / Phenomenal woman, / That’s me.”
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 It wasn’t until today, upon her death, that I read that she was raped at seven by her mother’s boyfriend, who was beaten to death by a mob when she told on him. Overwhelmed by his death at the tender age of seven she was silent for almost six years.  Over time she allowed herself to develop her strong musical sounding voice, evident in the reading of several stanzas of “Still I rise.”
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                                                Did you want to see me broken?
                                                Bowed head and lowered eyes?
                                                Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
                                                Weakened by my soulful cries.” (Fourth stanza)
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As an African American woman, she led a long courageous life, befriending Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr and his wife, Coretta Scott King, Oprah Winfrey and Rosa Parks among others.
A civil rights activist: “Out of the huts of history’s shame”
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                                                   I rise
                                                   Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
                                                   I rise
                                                   I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide.
                                                   Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. (Eighth stanza)
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She taught unity in brotherhood and sisterhood without racial, gender, or ethnic discrimination.
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                                                Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
                                                I rise
                                                Into daybreak that’s wondrously clear
                                                I rise
                                                Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
                                                I am the dream and the hope of the slave
                                                I rise
                                                I rise
                                                I rise.  (Last stanza)
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She read “On the Pulse of Morning,” at William Clinton’s inauguration and has been blessed with numerous publications and honorable achievement awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented to her by Barack Obama.
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In addition to her many creative talents (writer, director, singer, dancer, actress), she will be most remembered for her courage as an African American woman in a day when speaking out and taking a stand for truth in our country was very dangerous.
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On my way home from work today, listening to NPRs tribute to her, she said that she was not afraid of dying, that death was just a continuation of life, so the last stanza of her poem, “Thank You, Lord “seems a fitting conclusion:
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                                                I was once a sinner man,
                                                Living unsaved and wild,
                                                Taking my chances in a dangerous world,
                                                Putting my soul on trial.
                                                Because of your mercy,
                                                Falling down on me like rain
                                                Because of your mercy,
                                                When I die I’ll live again,
                                                Let me humbly say,
                                                Thank you for this day.
                                                I want to thank You.
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Believing in the Promise of America
By Mel Brake
Maya Angelou, a great American, was an inspiration to me personally. From when I read her memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” to her poem “On the Pulse of Morning”. Ms. Angelou inspired to me to believe in the promise that is America through her writing. That we are all one people under the sun with liberties and justice for all.
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From Lamont B. Steptoe
Dr. Maya Angelou was a luminous multi-talented activist and freedom fighter who used her God given gifts to raise the “advanced” among us to better and more conscious human beings. Her legacy is a beacon to assist us to transform our bleeding, toxic and polluted world into a more exalted one.
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From Alice Wootson
I love Maya Angelou’s prose and poetry, but I admire how she was able to overcome so much adversity and reach worldwide claim. She had the talent to put into poetry what we were feeling deep down inside. I will miss this gracious lady.
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Learn More about the poet here: http://mayaangelou.com/

5 responses to “Remembering Maya Angelou – In the Words of Poets

  1. Thanks for sending this tribute to Maya-a remarkable woman. maria keane

  2. Patricia Goodman

    Well said, Diane. She was an inspiration to the world.

  3. Reblogged this on melbrake and commented:
    Maya Angelou-Tribute

  4. Basil Rouskas

    Well written, Diane!
    Basil

  5. elijah b pringle, III

    I was fortunate to meet and talk with Dr. Angelou on several occasions. The last time I saw her was at the Faison Firehouse in NYC for a tribute to another one of my heroes James Baldwin. I only had the opportunity to say hello as Nic Ashford escorted her out in a wheelchair but I will never forget the wink and smile she gave. When she had you in her vision she had a way of making you understand for that moment; for that instance in time, you were the most important person in the world! May we all remember how to leave people feeling better after they have meet us.

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