Thursday, 29 May 2014

R.I.P Maya Angelou

Angeloupoem.jpgToday I unfortunately have a very sad message for all of you: Maya Angelou has died. Angelou, born April 4th, 1928, is, or I guess was, in my opinion, one of the defining African-American poets of the 20th and 21st century. She had a hard life, living through rape, a self-enforced vow of silence afterwards, and constant confrontation with the issue of race. She dealt with all of it beautifully through her poetry, inspiring women all around the world to love themselves. I know it sounds cheesy, but she really did. Some of her most inspirational poems are My Arkansas, Phenomenal Woman and her novel I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.

I did a R.I.P post (that shouldn't be a thing, it really shouldn't be) for Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but this post will be very different. My "relationship" with Maya Angelou is a lot more personal than it ever was with Marquez. Angelou was one of the poets we studied during my penultimate year in high school. We were studying 'identity', one of the vaguest themes to pick for teenagers to explore, and just like every other poet and author forced upon teenagers, I disliked her. I just felt I couldn't associate with her at all and the teacher's repeated insistence she was a genius somehow didn't help. But then I found a poem by her that just hit me, in a good way. I already talked about this poem on here once, but I decided that I should, once again, share this poem with you.

The Traveller
Byways and bygone
And lone nights long
Sun rays and sea waves
And star and stone

Manless and friendless
No cave my home
This is my Torture
My long nights, lone

I love the contrast between the first and the last stanzas. In the first Angelou explores the idea of travelling and exploring the whole wide world. There is something beautiful and free about it's complete lack of punctuation marks and mentions of everything from 'sun rays' to 'stone'. And then there is the harsh juxtaposition with 'manless' and 'friendless'. Suddenly nature isn't enough and you realize that in life you need friends and family as well. The line 'My long nights, lone' somehow always strikes me as incredibly sad. Everyone knows those nights in which you feel incredibly lonely and as if there's no one there for you. Angelou was amazing at capturing feelings like these in her poetry.

She will be missed, very much so.


  1. Awww I never even heard of this news :( I liked the "I Know Why A Caged Bird Sings." It was great, and some people in my school presented it for their class work. And it made me appreciate it! #RIPMayaAngelou :<

  2. I just got my tattoo, ironically, 'I Know Why The Caged Birds Sings' (not a), for Mother's day. I was devastated to read she passed, though she lived a full life. The hubby had not heard any of her prose, so I read, 'Still I Rise'. I got choked up and had to fight back the tears by the end.

    She is an icon that will be sorely missed by many.

  3. I've wanted to get a 'Still I Rise' tattoo for a long time now, and this news is so sad for sure. The world has lost a beautiful, rare soul.