Friday 30 May 2014

Maya Angelou

A truly great and gifted person passed away yesterday: Maya Angelou.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was on my school syllabus, alongside Harper Lee's To Kill a Mocking Bird.

Later in life I discovered her poem Still I Rise, which I still think is one of the best poems I've ever read. Sassy, hard-hitting and thought-provoking. Originally I was going to include a picture with a quote, but Angelou uttered so many deeply profound thoughts, it's best to read through them yourself.

I learned of her death on the TV screen of a hotel in Kigali, and raised my drink in a silent toast.

Still I Rise 
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread 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. 
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard. 
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise. 
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs? 
Out of the huts of history's shame
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.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a 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. 

1 comment:

  1. and on a day when the neanderthal Gove issued plans to take off all american novelist from the national curriculum. No 'to kill a mockingbird', no Arthur Miller, no Maya Angelou. Pleased to say Meera Sayal, whose book has just been placed on the reading list, led the charge of criticism with the obvious retort that the syllabus need to be widened not narrowed! Hope the opposition builds against this neo nationalistic aryan approach to literature!