OTHER VOICES: Maya Angelou

OTHER VOICES: Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s life story always reminds me of a quote by William Blake that never fails to lend me heart when I’m feeling low:

“No bird soars too high if it soars with its own wings.”

The woman probably qualifies as a “force of nature.”  What can you say about someone whose first autobiography, I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS, which was published in 1969 when she was 41, has gone through 154 editions so far?

That book wasn’t her last.  There were six more autobiographies, stretching from her childhood in Arkansas to Africa and back to the United States, covering a span of time from the beginnings of World War II to the death of Martin Luther King.

She was a steady and prolific poet as well and gave powerful performances as a spoken-word artist.  There are at least 18 books of her collected poems.

The following YouTube video, “And Still I Rise” is my favorite.  It was uploaded by mohitbahi in 2007.  What I love best about it is the interplay of emotions that move across the lady’s face and her delightful laugh.

The poem itself was published in 1978 in her book of the same name.

Angelou wrote screenplays as well as plays for the stage.  An accomplished performer and actor, she was also the first African-American woman to direct a major motion picture, Down in the Delta, in 1998.

Besides this, Angelou was a sought-after public speaker, joining the lecture circuit in the 1990’s and giving talks until she was in her eighties.

She has been called, “one of the most honored writers of her generation.”  The awards and honors rained down on her.  One more wonderment:  the woman received more than 30 honorary degrees from all kinds of bastions of higher education.

The Poetry Foundation has a page devoted to Maya Angelou.  Click on the button below if you’d like to find out more about her.


About her work, Angelou once said, “All my work, my life, everything I do is about survival, not just bare, awful, plodding survival, but survival with grace and faith. While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated.”

That one resonates with me.


This is the first in a new series of posts, “Other Voices,” that I’m trying in this thing.  I’ll throw them in the mix whenever I stumble across spoken-word poets whose words make your heart open.

We need more of that, I am thinking.

Header photo credit:  “Soaring” by Jim Roberts via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

Please note:  If you would like to contribute a poem to this LIFE-BUILT POEMS:  Living Out Loud blog, please click on the button below and check out the “Guest Poet Portal.”


I do ask three things of my guest poets:

  • a poem of your own making that has great meaning and mana for you,
  • the back-story for the poem — what inspired you or how you made it or whatever you want to tell about it, and
  • an image you own that I can use as the featured photo in the header. (The last is optional. I do ask that the image you share is one you own — either an image of yourself or something that relates to the poem.  If you choose not to send an image, then I’ll go find something that works.)

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

12 thoughts on “OTHER VOICES: Maya Angelou

  1. The layout of your site is amazing I really appreciate that you have it laid out to make it easy to fall along. This is very fascinating and I’ve learned so much from reading this and watching that video. This will definitely stick with me.

    1. Andrea, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts. I am so pleased you found the post helpful.

      Please do come again….

  2. As far as I can tell, “And Still I Rise” is probably one of the most profoundly powerful poems of all time. Maya Angelou is undoubtedly one of the best poets of any generation, and we were all blessed that she was able to express who she is to the world.

    I remember borrowing one of her books from the high school library and getting multiple fines because I refused to return it until I finished re-re-reading it.

    Anyway, this post was more informative than I expected considering I already knew a lot about her works. I had no idea about her status as the first black woman to direct a feature film. I mean I knew she had directed but didn’t know she was the first. Especially, as late as 1998. It’s great on one hand, but kind of sad that we’ve separated women and more so women of color from the arts and entertainment almost altogether up until recently.

    Have you read any of her books? If so, which one(s)?

    1. T-Rx, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do understand the refusing to return a book until you finish “re-re-reading it.”  Hee!  Angelou is one of the good ones, all right!

      I am in the process of re-reading the lady’s line-up of autobiographies.  (I’ve read them all, at one time or another, and each one is worthy of another run-through, I am thinking.)

      I am pleased you enjoyed the post.  Please do come again….  

  3. Maya Angelou will forever be known as a voice of inspiration for me as well. I love how she says her work is about surviving with grace and faith. 

    It’s nice to think of a bird using its wings to soar higher and higher, stretching up to see just what it can accomplish.

    1. I do agree with you, Aly.  Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts….

      Please do come again.

  4. MurryMerch says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post about Maya Angelou. She was such an inspiring and influential figure in literature and in life, and you captured her essence beautifully.

    I especially appreciated the way you discussed how her words and wisdom continue to resonate with us today. It’s amazing how some people can have such a lasting impact, and Maya Angelou is definitely one of them.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights on this amazing writer and person. I look forward to reading more of your work.

    1. MurryMerch, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again.

  5. Michel Maling says:

    I often read and enjoy the poems on your website, but I must say this has been my favorite post so far. It was fascinating to read all about May Angelou and all her accomplishments.

    The rise poem is wonderful to watch and is very profound. She has certainly achieved a lot of success, especially considering she was raped and suffered all that guilt when her rapist was murdered. I’m sure her children’s publications have also helped many that were in the same boat she was in. 

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Michel.  I love your takes on my posts. 

      I agree that Angelou was an extraordinary human light. 

      Please do come again.

  6. I wanted to thank you for sharing the information about Maya Angelou. To my shame, I was not familiar with her before reading your article and listening to her poetry.

    She has left a strong impression on me and it is clear that she was a powerful woman who had important things to say and knew how to express them. Her poetry even brought tears to my eyes.

    Thank you for the enlightening article.

    1. Camelia, I am so glad you resonated with this post.  Maya was an extraordinary human.  Me, I feel we all need a little bit of Angelou in our lives.

      Please do come again.

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