Another week in which I ‘discovered’ another new author. I say discovered because Maya Angelou has been around for decades. I knew her name, the title of her most famous work (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) and the fact she was a leading figure in the African- American freedom cause. But that was it until this week when I read Caged Bird and found a podcast on the BBC World Service where she read some of her poetry. Her career as an actor make her a powerful performer but it’s the message itself that is even more impactful. Now my appetite has been well and truly whetted and I have to find out more about this remarkable woman.
My review of Caged Bird is here. If you want a taste of her poetry, this is the poem she read at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton (she was first woman poet to do such a reading).
On the Pulse of Morning
A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon,
The dinosaur, who left dried tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow,
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness
Have lain too long
Facedown in ignorance,
Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.
The Rock cries out to us today,
You may stand upon me,
But do not hide your face.