"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris ... then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Inspirational literary women who inspire me - today - Maya Angelou.

Hi my friends!

I want to pay tribute to a wonderful writer who died today. I mourn Maya Angelou, the prolific African-American writer who penned more than 30 books, won numerous awards, and was honored last year by the National Book Awards for her service to the literary community.

I first came across Angelou many years ago through her wonderful poem and auto-biography by the same name: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Even though describing metaphorically the deep pain and suffering of the Negro, its tone lifts and inspires the reader. She writes in the final stanza:

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.

At first, Angelou doesn't even know what freedom is, but she understands that her life is not the one she wants. So she does what she can, singing her song, and by the end of the poem, and towards the end of her life, she's a little bit closer to freedom.

In her book of essays, Wouldn't Take Nothing for my Journey Now, Angelou is nothing if not opinionated and forthright. One her essays, Our Boys, tackles racism. 

'The plague of racism is insidious,' she says, 'entering into our minds as smoothly and quietly and invisibly as floating airborne microbes enter into our bodies to find lifelong purchase in our bloodstreams.'

Angelou goes on to say, 'It is time for the preachers, the rabbis, the priests and pundits, and the professors to believe in the awesome wonder of diversity so that they can teach those who follow them. It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength. We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter their color; equal in importance no matter their texture. 

Our young must be taught that racial pecularities do exist, but that beneath the skin beyond the differing features and into the true heart of being, fundamentally, we are more alike...than we are unalike.'

...Mirror twins are different
although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different
while lying side by side.


I note the obvious differences
beween each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

  1. Maya Angelou 
    Maya Angelou was an American author and poet. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years.
  2. Rest in Peace, Maya...

Do you know and love Maya Angelou? Do you find her inspirational? What literary women inspire you?


  1. She was an amazing woman. I was saddened to hear of her passing.

    I first saw her when she was featured on Oprah many years ago.

  2. To be tolerant. To know we are diverse yet alike. Horace wrote: “Quid rides? Mutato nomine, de te fabula narratur.”

    “Why do you laugh? Change the name, and the story is told of you.”

    Maya Angelou inspired with her beautiful verse that sang of loss, of yearning, and of hope that we all could be better. The world seemed a better place with me just knowing she was living in it. Now, her words will be an echo of her beautiful heart.

    Great post, Denise.

  3. When I studied "I know why the caged bird sings" at school, we weren't really introduced to her properly - it was only years later that I discovered how important she was. She had the most amazing, soothing voice.

    1. I'm glad you learned more about her. Yes, her voice just rolls over you.

  4. Amazing woman.
    I've lived and traveled around the world, and I've never understood racism based on skin tone or nation. People are people.

  5. Alex said it well. I haven't travelled as much as Alex, but once you venture outside your usual domain, you find hearts and minds which are like ours. You see how we are alike, rather than different.

    I haven't read a lot of Maya, but I do have my inspiring women: Simone de Beauvoir inspired me in my college days, all those suffragettes, and women who did what they wanted despite the roadblocks. (real or imagined) I also have several women scifi authors who inspired me.

    1. D.G., there are so many I admire. de Beauvoir would definitely be up there.

  6. Lovely tribute, Denise.

    Yes, I know of her works and she was astounding. Her words will live on for generations to come and hopefully some day we will all see things as clearly as she.

  7. I haven't read anything other than her poetry (shameful, I know) but she is indeed a visionary. Her thoughts on racism brings to mind the discussion on diversity in books, which came up recently.

    She is indeed an inspiration.

  8. Hi Denise .. seems like her time has come and many of us will be reading more about her .. I heard a brief note on her death that truly moved me to hear more about her and read more ..

    She apparently was an outstanding woman .. thanks for posting this - she definitely deserves attention ... cheers Hilary

    1. I know she will live on through her marvelous words.

  9. Hi Denise,

    I only became aware of her when she passed away. She was featured on the British news and I was touched by her honest candour.

    Enjoy the remainder of your weekend, dear friend.


  10. I loved her book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Her language and insights were so eloquent. A marvelous write and an elegant person. And someone who truly triumphed over adversity.

  11. Letters of Note featured a letter she wrote to her younger self. Such a powerful letter!

  12. Lovely tribute for an amazing and inspirational woman, Denise.

  13. What a great choice! I haven't read any of her books...but I have read her poetry and the quotes I've seen from her are amazing. Very inspiring.

  14. Wonderful tribute, Denise! Thank you for sharing. :)


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