Day 23/30 - Maya Angelou!


Last night I read some poems by an angry man - young then, no longer. I was feeling tired and the poems were, frankly, depressing. In their rightful anger, the poems nonetheless felt murderous even - in their anger. It came from a place of weakness seeking power. He sought in the poems a power and a channel for that anger to bring action, change. But it felt to me that he came away disappointed. The words - the words didn’t feel like he believed the words were enough. He was a teacher. Perhaps this sphere of influence frustrated him too? Oh, it could also be that the translations are bad!
 
So I can't share a poem of his to share that wouldn’t, on a Wednesday, spread a debilitating anger. And then I recalled Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou!

I read her poems Sunday afternoon as I lay on the living room rug, feeling strangely tired then too. And receiving a kick in the butt as I read her poems. You can also say she’s an angry woman. Take an early poem like "No No No" or a later poem like "Son to Mother" - she wrote consistently of the injustices suffered by black people. But Maya Angelou’s words and anger did not come across vengeful, murderous. They are painful. They are funny. They are angry. They are sad. They are powerful. They are broken. Before she became a published writer she had been a cook, a performer in a nightclub, a sex worker, Broadway cast member, event coordinator… 
The poems come from a place, I think, of survival. It comes from a place of strength, recognizing weakness.  words themselves had power and she knew it.

Maya Angelou was more celebrated for her autobiographical fiction, although her one poem “Still I rise” is today already an anthem.  Even if you don’t read her poems aloud, they are already ringing and chiming, whispering or moaning, steady or growling in your mind’s ears.

I share here a poem that addresses directly the anger as a writer (actually she uses the word “wrath”, like a god’s!) - but "quickly" - perhaps before it consumes or does she want the wrath to come quickly?Whichever. It’s a kick in the
butt. I love that line “tendering the night”, so simple and so smart.

With 5 days more (and no more I hope) of this “notLockdown” to go, Maya Angelou! 

Artful Pose
Of falling leaves and melting
snow, of birds
in their delights
Some poets sing
their melodies
tendering their night
sweetly.

My pencil halts
and will not go
along that quiet path
I need to write
of lovers false
and hate
and hateful wrath
quickly.

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