In this, my first piece for AudNews, it seems fitting that Maya Angelou be the inspiration. As a girl, I scribbled poems in journals, only to be hidden away, until I gained the courage to share my words with others. I learned poems shouldn’t live on the page. They should be spoken and heard, they should fill our ears and our hearts. And no one can do that better than Maya Angelou could. She did not read her poetry, she embodied it, through the rise and fall of her voice, her eyes, her hands.
When Maya Angelou read “On the Pulse of the Morning” at Clinton’s 1993 inauguration, it was only the second time in history to have a poet do so. (Robert Frost was the first, for President Kennedy.) Maya wrote the piece especially for the occasion and filled it with themes and ideas similar to Clinton’s own speech. And while some critics looked down upon the content for its lack of greatness, no one could argue with the greatness of her presentation. Her voice rang out over the crowd, building mid poem, as she listed the people who make up our nation:
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the Tree.
And careening towards the end, she spoke of the need for change and the reminder that we do not have to repeat the past:
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Maya Angelou’s performance deservedly brought her more recognition, more book sales, and a recording of the inaugural poem later went on to win a Grammy Award.
Now, with Maya Angelou’s passing, the world is abuzz with her words. While she led a rich life filled with a multitude of adventures, social media posts have been overflowing with her poems “Still I Rise” and “Phenomenal Woman.” Traditional media has shared lists of her greatest poems, as well as excerpts.
Pretty inspiring for someone who received a master’s degree in poetry and has often wondered who even cares if another poem makes its way into the world. So much that I am feeling the pull to write a poem, something I haven’t done for a long time. I can only hope my voice will have even a portion of the effect Maya Angelou’s has had on the world.