Skip to content

Thoughts on Maya Angelou

May 28, 2014

poets and writers pass all the time. that’s what happens when people get older – it’s a natural side effect of age. i have only read one work of Angelou’s. I can’t pretend to know her writing intimately. there are other writers whose deaths have affected me more, and other writers who I would be more torn up about if they passed away. however, being internet-less (a social experiment a cette moment, to see how long the anxiety takes to fade while being disconnected. i write this sponging wifi from a starbucks, where yesterday a toddler pulled down his pants in the middle of the coffee shop and walked out the door with his trousers around his ankles, all while his mother was texting. social experiment, indeed), i didn’t learn of Angelou’s death until today, this a.m., when i did the requisite check to see if anything had exploded, news-wise, during the night. (internet-less is how i missed the rodgers shooting until a day after it had happened, which is why only now am i parsing my feelings about it and playing catchup).

the result of not knowing about angelou’s death until hours after it had happened was that facebook was lit up like a pinball machine. and several of my female friends – all from the same circle and time in my life – posted a specific poem of Angelou’s. and this is because all of those women were part of the cast of the vagina monologues, along with me, and we all knew the poem “phenomenal woman” because it was part of a weekly ritual we did.


Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
– Maya Angelou
this poem has been repeated and reblogged and tumbled and tweeted so much that it has almost lost its breadth and power, like kahlil gibran’s quotes are thrashed to death. that’s the interesting side effect of our techno generation. we can reach a great audience, but almost miss the meat of the message.
but this poem holds great meaning for me, because the directors of the 2007 vagina monologues at queen’s university – ainslie and john – (yes, we had a male director, which caused a great deal of upset at the school, but was an interesting and rewarding experience in itself) cut the poem up into one-line slips of paper. and after every rehearsal, which were on sundays, the entire cast of the v-mons would stand in a circle, each holding a slip of paper, and recite the poem, one line at a time, in all these disparate yet similar voices. it was very, very powerful. it glued us together, from different squads of women rehearsing in separate pods (as is the case when a performance encompasses so many different and disparate monologues) into a cohesive group. it was very important. it was not politically charged, not gender or sexually charged, not anything in the moment except women reading a poem about women, together, and happy with one another.
i really needed to remember that today.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 28, 2014 11:41 am

    Great post Dad

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: