News / Arts & Entertainment

Poetry Magazine Editor: Angelou's Art Came From Life

Don Share, editor of Poetry Magazine
Don Share, editor of Poetry Magazine
David Byrd
The world is mourning the loss of poet and educator Maya Angelou, who died Wednesday at age 86.  To get some perspective, we spoke with Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine, about Angelou's life and legacy for VOA's radio program Now!

BYRD: What do you think Maya Angelou’s legacy will be as far as poetry and as far as literature? What did she mean to the world?

SHARE:  Well actually her legacy, which was very much a vigorous part of her own presence while she was around and while we were lucky enough to have her around, consisted of the fact that she connected poetry and literature with living, with real living. She worked in night clubs as a dancer, she was a fry cook, she worked in a mechanics shop taking the paint – we're told – off cars with her hands.

And so her life really ran the gamut of experience. And the result of that was the poetry that we are remembering her now for, but also for her legacy of generosity and kindness.  She inspired people who maybe don’t have lives that seem like the subjects of poems or maybe people who have occupations that do not give them the luxury of reading or writing what we’re calling literature. 

She appealed to those people because she always accounted for them and always communicated directly with them, understood them, and more importantly made them feel worth something.  She was always full of a kind of energy – as her poetry was – that made you feel like life was worth living, and that surviving was good, and that being kind to people was our sustenance.
 
Maya Angelou answers questions at her portrait unveiling at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, April 5, 2014.Maya Angelou answers questions at her portrait unveiling at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, April 5, 2014.
x
Maya Angelou answers questions at her portrait unveiling at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, April 5, 2014.
Maya Angelou answers questions at her portrait unveiling at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, April 5, 2014.
BYRD: She was also an educator at Wake Forest University but she said that comedians like Chris Rock or Richard Pryor as well as leaders in the African American community, people in literature and in poetry came to her almost to get some of the wisdom or some of the insight that she carried as her natural being.

SHARE: I think she did. I mean a lot of it was her shear charisma and energy.  I mean we have to remember that she did have a career in TV and in film.  She was the first black woman to have a screenplay produced in this country back in 1972 and she was nominated for an Emmy for being in the series Roots, and of course her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was adapted by television for a movie of the same name.

So in a way there was something charismatic and even show business about her, but show business not in the shallow way that we think of with celebrities who don’t have any depth, but in a true sense of it which is that she was performing who she was – she was a character but that character was who she really was and that made you feel that you could be who you are.  And I think that is an attractive quality whether you are just some person browsing through books or whether you are a movie star or another kind of celebrity or President of the United States.

BYRD: Did you ever personally meet Maya [Angelou]? Did you ever get a chance to talk with her?

SHARE: I have never spoken with her. I have heard her lectures – which are electrifying.  There are recordings of them that people can listen to and I don’t think you’re ever the same when you hear her.  She makes you laugh; she makes you stop and think; she encourages you; there was a rhythm in her speaking voice that was a kind of the rhythm of poetry. All very inspiring.  But just to hear her voice could be an inspiration and to listen to what she was saying.  And I think that’s why people are feeling her loss so keenly now: it’s almost like that voice will have to be heard now in retrospect.

BYRD: Do you have a favorite poem of hers? Many people have quoted her poem “Still I Rise” but do you have a personal favorite?

SHARE: I do.  You know another poem you’ll hear people talk about is the Caged Bird, but I like another poem called “Awaking in New York.”  It’s just a small poem, but it’s just so vivid and wonderful. And I can read it to you, actually.

BYRD: That’d be great.

SHARE: Yeah, so this is “Awaking in New York.”

Curtains forcing their will 
against the wind,
children sleep,
exchanging dreams with 
seraphim. The city
drags itself awake on 
subway straps; and
I, an alarm, awake as a 
rumor of war,
lie stretching into dawn,
unasked and unheeded.” 

BYRD: That is short, but that’s great imagery.  Is there anything we’ve forgotten?

SHARE: The main thing that we’ll miss on the one hand but always carry with us through the work that will survive is that courageousness, that sensitivity, but also the toughness and sense of humor that it takes to get by.  She made you feel like you could get through anything and that it was worth getting through. So I think that that’s something that everyone will always remain inspired by.

Don Share is the editor of Poetry Magazine.  He spoke with VOA’s David Byrd from Amherst, Massachusetts.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”