February 28, 2002
"I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings"
-- Maya Angelou
by Richard L. Wilkerson
Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library
If it has been a while since you've experienced the ininutable voice of Maya Angelou, this is a wonderful way
to remind yourself just why she's one of America's most celebrated word smiths. Angelou
shares stories, memories, and observations about life and the things that make it worth
living. Her experience in Los Angeles in 1974 showed what she could do: in film,
television, original screenplays, musical scores, and even a ten-part TV series. She has
received numerous honorary degrees, served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the
American Film Institute Directors Guild.
In a voice than can be somber and lighthearted, lyrical and raunchy, Angelou shares
what she has learned at key moments in her later years. In a story of a marriage that
soured with the choice of dwelling, she describes how a house can hurt and how a home can
heal. She is fiumy on the subject of growing older ("At 60, my body, which had never
displayed a mind of its own, turned obstreperous, opinionated, and deliberately
treacherous"); joyful on the pleasures of sensuality ("I have reached the lovely
age where I can admit that sensuality satisfies me as much as sexuality"); sincere in
her tribute to Oprah Winfrey; and ferocious when she talks about violence.
The beauty of Angelou's language is always evident, but you remember you're in the
hands of a poet when she begins an essay on vacations with the statement: "After
creating the universe, all stars, each grain of sand, the hump back whale and the soft
shell crab, even God tired aid took a day ofE" Angelou is a wonderful writer who
knows how to live.
At President Bill Clinton's request, Maya Angelou wrote and read the first offical
inaugural poem in 32 years, called "On
The Pulse of Morning".