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Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou (1928- ) was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis. She was reared in segregated rural Arkansas. Angelou wears many hats: poet, historian, author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, and director. Her lectures carry her throughout the U.S. and abroad. She has been a Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina since 1981, and has published ten best selling books and numerous articles for which she has been awarded Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award nominations.       Collected Poems Click to Order Angelou's Complete Collected Poems (soft $$).

At the request of President Clinton, who knew of her personally and chose her with no reservations, she wrote and delivered a poem at his 1993 presidential inauguration. Angelou speaks French, Spanish, Italian, and West African Fanti. After marrying a South African freedom fighter, she lived in Cairo where she served as editor of The Arab Observer, the only English-language news weekly in the Middle East. In Ghana, she was feature editor of The African Review and taught at the University of Ghana.

In the 1960's, at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Angelou became the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She was appointed by President Gerald Ford to the Bicentennial Commission and by President Jimmy Carter to the National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year.

In the film industry, Maya Angelou has established herself through her script writing and directing, serving as a model for black women. Her best-selling autobiographical account of her childhood, "I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings," won critical acclaim in 1970 and was featured as a two hour television special on CBS. She wrote and produced the prize-winning (Golden Eagle Award) documentary "Afro-Americans in the Arts." She received Emmy Award nominations for her acting in Roots, as well as for her screenplay writing of "Georgia," which was the first film by a black woman.

The poem "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings," takes its name from Angelou's famous autobiography.       Soul Makes a Path ...Click to Order Angelou's I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings (soft $).


I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

A free bird leaps on the back of the wind
and floats downstream till the current ends
and dips his wing in the orange suns rays and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage
can seldom see through his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.

Links of Interest:

Maya Angelou
This publisher's site of the African-American poet, academic, and civil-rights activist includes her profile, previous books, and related links.
Maya Angelou
Site includes text of poems, images of Angelou, and a bulletin board for fellow enthusiasts to post their views and insights.
Maya Angelou
University of Texas site includes poems, a brief biography, interviews, and a forum for comments.
Maya Angelou: Bibliography
This site features a bibliography of literary criticism on Angelou.
A Look Into Maya Angelou
Great site provide biographical information and bibliography, among other resources.


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