Who is Maya Angelou?

Maya Angelou was born on April 4th, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. Angelou’s achievements started early even after experiencing a troubling childhood. She was the first African-American female cable car conductor while still in high school at age fourteen. After graduating, she gave birth to her son and had to support him by working as a waitress. Angelou had a deep passion for the arts including dance, acting, and singing, and received a scholarship to further that passion. Starting out as a nightclub singer, Angelou’s career blossomed. She toured with an acting company, danced with some of the greatest dancers, and recorded her own album.

Angelou’s accomplishments didn’t stop there.  She traveled to Egypt and became a newspaper editor of The Arab Observer, written in the English language.  She was also editor of The African Review after traveling to Ghana, while teaching at the University of Ghana’s School of Music and Drama.

While continuing to do what she loved, Angelou involved herself in the Civil Rights Movement, becoming a friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Since then, Angelou has accepted awards, written books and poetry, and has been famously known throughout the world.  She’s most notably known for her poem “Why the Caged Bird Sings” which tells us about  her childhood up until the age of seventeen.  Angelou continues to do today what she has always been passionate about, and will remain a legacy for years to come.

Maya Angelou Biographical Information:
http://mayaangelou.com/bio/
http://www.biography.com/people/maya-angelou-9185388

Maya Angelou Major Events Timeline and Critical Analysis:
http://www.history-timelines.org.uk/people-timelines/19-maya-angelou-timeline.htm
http://www.uncp.edu/home/canada/work/canam/angelou.htm

Lists of other Works:
http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/maya_angelou/poems
http://mayaangelou.com/books/

Alone

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
‘Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

“Alone” by Maya Angelou is a poem explaining how it is almost impossible to go through life alone and remain happy.  Maya Angelou knows first hand what it feels like to be alone in life, living between homes though out her adolescence and getting to where she is in life on her own.  She explains the importance of having someone in your life that you can have a relationship with.  The poem talks about being alone in the world and what toile it takes on you.  Also, how loneliness leaves you with the constant need and want to have someone there to fill that empty void. In the poem she says “How to find my soul a home / Where water is not thirsty / And bread loaf is not stone” telling us that being alone causes you to feel empty and leaves her always reaching for more, because what she has is not enough.  She wants to be somewhere in life where her thirst will be quenched and she’ll no longer be hungry.  This poem also tells us that money cannot buy happiness.  People rely too heavily on material things and put a momentary happiness before an eternal happiness that human beings could bring to your life.  It’s almost impossible to live life being alone because happiness is something that is meant to be shared, which is one reason that makes you happy in the first place.  Without being able to share that happiness with someone, you won’t make it too far.  The poem says “They’ve got expensive doctors / To cure their hearts of stone. / But nobody / No, nobody / Can make it out here alone” reminding us that there’s nothing that can cure being alone and the heartache it brings.  Not doctors or any medicine they can provide.  The only thing that can heal that feeling completely is the love of another human being.

Critical Analysis:
http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/Maya_Angelou/17346/comments

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou knew some people would not like her. As a highly educated strong black woman she faced prejudices others might not face. She knew people would lie about her, make up false stories, and try to tear her down. But Angelou was no victim. In this poem she embraced the hatred. She told her critics they could try to break her down; they could spread lies, “you may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise.” Anything her critics said against her made her stronger. She continued by asking her critics if her sassiness, haughtiness, and sexiness offend them. But she did not care if it did, because she knew who she was inside and did not allow their meaningless words to change her. She uses many similes and metaphors to make her point. She compares herself to dust, the moon, the sun, “like hopes springing high,” and air. She illustrated herself as these natural occurrences to prove she could rise about everyday just like the sun or the moon. She also proved she had the endurance to keep rising. Angelou referred to the past. She pointed out “up from a past that’s rooted in pain I rise…leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise…bring the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.” She showed her readers how to rise above the past and the present. In order to grow from past circumstances it was important to let go. As an African American woman, Angelou was aware of the hard aches of her ancestors. She was aware she was living the dream of all slaves in the world. She wanted to rise above her past, not only for herself but to be an example of strength and endurance for generations to come.

Critical Analysis:

http://www.educationoasis.com/curriculum/LP/LA/stillIrise.htm

 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.

This poem describes her first seventeen years. She became a mother at seventeen. She was born into a society that did not accept African Americans as equals.  She fought for Civil rights. In the first stanza Maya describes what the caged bird sees. The bird looks outside at the beauty. The caged bird sees a free bird doing as it pleases.  In the second stanza the Maya describes the life of the caged bird. This is how she feels. The caged bird only knows the world inside his cage. Even if the bird were free he is still unable to fly. His wings are clipped and his feet are tied.  In the third stanza the bird is singing. At first it is a fearful trill. The bird sings for freedom. This bird longs to be free. In the fourth stanza the bird is imagining what freedom is like. The bird can see the worms. He can feel the breeze against his wings as he flies.  In the fifth stanza the caged bird is living a nightmare. He only escapes when he sings. The singing gives this bird hope.  The sixth stanza repeats that the bird sings for freedom. This poem reflects the life of African Americans in early America.  They struggled for freedom. This poem displays her early childhood. She struggled as a child. As an African American there were so many barriers against them. African Americans dreamed of freedom. But they still lived in a world of clipped wings. African Americans had no freedom. Maya displays this concept well in this poem. She fought for equality amongst races.  She is a role model for all races. She climbed out of some difficult situations and triumphed.

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