Maya Angelou


Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou is a very triumphant woman. She has written many books and poems
that have given her great success. If one would talk to her, he or she would
think she has lead a normal, happy life. Her life is blissful now, but it
wasn’t always perfect. Maya Angelou’s sorrowful life experiences inspired
her to write autobiographical works of poetry. Maya Angelou was born April 4,

1928 as Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis. She was raised in segregated rural

Arkansas. She came from a broken home. Angelou was raped at eight, and was an
unwed mother at 16 years old (Williams 1). In spite of her tragic childhood, she
still managed to become one of the greatest black poets of the twentieth century
(Williams 1). Angelou is a poet, an author, a historian, an actress, a
playwright, a civil-rights activist, a producer, and a director. Ms. Angelou
began her career in drama and dance, and she married a South African freedom
fighter and lived in Cairo. Later she also taught in Ghana. In the 1960's she
said that being black, female, non-Muslim, non-Arab, six foot tall, and American
made for some interesting experiences during her stay in Africa (Williams 1).

Ms. Angelou accomplished many things in her life. She was the northern
coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the request of

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She was also appointed to the Bicentennial

Commission by President Gerald Ford, the National Commission on the Observance
of International Women's Year by Jimmy Carter, and in 1993 she wrote and
delivered the presidential inauguration for President Bill Clinton. Maya Angelou
is a decorated author. She has been nominated for two Emmy awards and has won a

Pulitzer Prize. She is also a highly cultured person. She can speak English,

French, Spanish, Italian, and West African Fanti. And many of her poems can
inspire people today. Knowing something about Angelou’s life can help one to
understand her poetry. In one of Angelou’s poems, "Unmeasured Tempo", she
talks about a person’s life. How mind and body do not reach their apex at the
same time. By the time a person gets old enough to have a spiritual realization
of who they are their body is already declining (Angelou 11). This poem is
written in blank verse. It does not have any rhyme or rhythm. Yet it does use
figurative language. For example, the simile, "Dreams are petted like
cherished lap dogs". This poem is complex and makes the reader look for the
deeper meaning in the poem (Angelou 11). Another one of Angelou’s poems is

"Little Girl Speakings" where she once again writes autobiographically.

It’s a comparative poem about the things important to Angelou in her
childhood. She is explaining to one of her peers that she has the best parents
and the best toys(Angelou 65). There are a lot of literary devices used in this
poem. The two most obvious ones are slang and repetition. The phrases "Ain’t
nobody better’s my daddy", "Ain’t nothing prettier’n my dollie", and

"No lady cookinger than my mommy" are repeated in this poem (Angelou 65).

The rhyme scheme, ABBA, is simple yet unusual. There are many words that rhyme
like quauter and daughter, said and head, and pie and lie (Angelou 65). A third
and final poem of Angelou’s is " Avec Merci, Mother" ("avec" means"with" in French). This poem uses very simple language, but it is very
complicated. The subject seems to change in the middle of the poem. She first
talks about her mother being this perfect beauty who was polite and adored. And
then it talks about a person who catches her eyes who seems to be her son and
then she associates him with his father. This poem is one of Angelou’s more
difficult works to understand (Angelou 18). This poem doesn’t have a lot of
literary devices. The rhyme scheme of this poem is ABABCDED. Angelou uses
literary devises like similes in the phrase, "He’s so much like his daddy
when he cries" (Angelou 18). The style of Maya Angelou can range from complex
symbolical ideas to easy, straightforward concepts. Firstly, her style is like a
story. Second, the vocabulary is usually easy to understand, and not too
complicated. And, her works are not always conventional: sometimes she writes in
normal four line stanzas with rhyme and rhythm and sometimes she does not. Also,
she is very honest, open, and she shows her emotions. All types of emotions are
portrayed in her work. There are a

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