Maya, a Poetic Angel
Just one person can have an evident effect, good or bad, on the lives of many people. One person who has influenced the lives of millions is Maya Angelou, a world-renown African-American author and poet. She has battled with struggles such as racism, sexism, and prejudice all of her life. Angelou quotes, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” With her courage and determination, Maya Angelou has influenced the evolution of modern poetry and has promoted justice for the African-American race.
Through her variety of talents, Maya Angelou has greatly influenced America and taught her struggles of growing up as a young African-American woman. Angelou was born on April 4,1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, but was reared by her grandmother in Arkansas. At the age of eight, Angelou’s self-image was destroyed when she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. Because she was devastated and thought his attack was her fault, Angelou did not speak to anyone but her brother for five years, hoping her silence would prevent her from hurting again. She chose to raise her illegitimate son Guy instead of attending college. Although she was a “nobody” in high school, she grew up to become the writer-producer for Twentieth-Century-Fox Television, a Broadway star, the writer of over fifteen award-winning plays, and the author of many autobiographies. Also, she lived in Egypt working as the administrator of The School for Music and Drama in Ghana. Other than her many writing and film awards, she was recognized as the first female streetcar conductor, named the Northern coordinator for Dr. Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Fellowship, and hired as a professor at many universities (“Angelou”). She has been nominated for a Tony and an Emmy, has won a Grammy, and has had many national landmarks named after her (Angaza). While Angelou’s books have sold millions of copies, her poetry receives much less critical attention. Because of her many achievements, the uniqueness of her poetry has been and continues to be overlooked (Sylvester 23). Maya Angelou writes her poetry with a Black style and mainly deals with the struggles of African Americans. Angelou is known to “write for the Black voice and any ear which can hear it” (Williams 32). She describes her job as merely listening to the blacks and speaking their words for them through writing (Williams). She chooses words, tempos, sounds, and rhythms that make her poetry sound almost like song or speech. Angelou knows how to connect to the feelings and needs of her race through the voice of her poetry (Sylvester 23). Having been a trained dancer, Angelou writes with the same “lilting cadence” and grace to make her lines dance before the readers’ eyes (Williams). The majority of her poetry addresses the social and political issues of African Americans. With this recurring theme and subject, Angelou challenges the legitimacy of American values and beliefs (“Angelou”). Angelou wants to relate to people of all ages, and much of her poetry is directed towards college students who admire her unique rhythms, rhymes, and content (Hagen 48). She uses litotes, or understatements, in her poetry to share her experiences with energy. Angelou’s poetry is rarely serious; she uses humor to cover up the bitterness and anger she feels inside (Sylvester 24). In her volume of poetry called And Still I Rise, her writing is not only comical but also “sassy” (23). If categorized, her poetry would fall under “light verse” because it mostly deals with her everyday Black experiences. Although Angelou does not write the most profound or intellectual poetry, she writes poetry that is meaningful to the African-American race and that presents racial themes and concerns. Her main reason for writing is to eliminate all false impressions about African Americans (Hagen).
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