Poet, memoirist, civil rights activist, “Phenomenal Woman,” and many other things, Dr Maya Angelou will be turning 86 on the fourth of April. She has lived a full and varied life so far, which is documented in her seven volumes of memoirs.
I first heard of Angelou when I studied the first volume of her memoirs, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, for my English Literature A Level. Here she speaks of her childhood, where her experiences are painful, heart-warming, shocking and funny, and her personality shines through every word. The quality of her writing is such that, despite the huge differences between us, I lived every moment of the book with her, living in “the Store” in Arkansas, dancing at a Mexican fiesta and much, much more.
But it was when my teacher showed the class video clips of Angelou performing her poetry that I really appreciated how great she is. She spoke with a passion and vitality that made me truly understand poetry for the first time. At school and college we had studied Keats, Shelley, Owen and Yeats, all great poets, but all dead men whose words rested silently on the page. Angelou, however, brought her words to life with a power that showed poetry is life.
Dr Maya Angelou is an amazingly talented and inspirational woman who deserves so much celebration and admiration.