Maya Angelou, the One 'Who Knew Why the Caged Bird Sings', Bids Farewell at 86
by Elizabeth Menon

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Maya Angelou, the One 'Who Knew Why the Caged Bird Sings', Bids Farewell at 86



Maya Angelou, the most revered African-American author and poet, died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Wednesday, 28 May! She was born, 'Marguerite Ann Johnson' on 4 April 1928 in St Louis, Missouri in the US (4 April 1928-28 May 2014). 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. She received dozens of awards and over thirty honorary doctoral degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. ''I know why the Caged Bird Sings', the first of her autobiographies in 1969 was the ground breaking book that brought her International fame! 'Heart of a Woman, Gather together in my Name, Still I Rise, 'Mom & Me &Mom' and many more followed! And she liked to be called 'Angeloh'!


Her words also feature on the 'War Memorial' in Kennington Park, in memory of over 100 people who were killed when a bomb landed on their shelter there in 1940: ''History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again''.

Her volume of Poetry, 'Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Dilli' was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and of course, her poem 'On the Pulse of Morning' is world famous! Her voice, ranging from a low baritone to high contralto, is revered the world over and her poetry recital is mesmerizing, and an inspiration to many. She recited her poem, 'The Pulse of Morning' at the inauguration of President Clinton in 1993, the first poet to do an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at President John F Kennedy's inauguration in 1961 (Robert Frost, the legendary Poet, recited his famous poem, 'The Gift Outright' at JFK's inauguration on 20 January in 1961!)

Dr Maya Angelou was also very active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked tirelessly with Martin Luther King. Jr and Malcolm X. She was highly respected as the Spokesperson for Black people and women. She was the recipient of many awards and President Obama honoured her with the highest Civilian honour in the US, the 'Presidential Award of Freedom'. The poet with the revered voice, who could sing, dance, write and speak for the underprivileged has gone, but her many books and her scintillating poems will keep the 'Legendary Wonder' in our hearts for eternity! Maya Angelou, we mourn you and may you rest in poetical bliss!

© E Menon

 

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