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

    Turkey, West in Standoff Over Syrian Refugees

    Turkish government refuses to admit refugees, the first in a wave of civilians fleeing offensive by Assad regime in northern Aleppo countryside

    Jailed American Testifies About Islamist Involvement in Mumbai Attacks

    David Headley testifies via video link that Pakistan-based Islamic terror group made two failed attempts to mount strikes in Mumbai in months prior to coordinated assault

    These Are the 10 Smartest US States

    A new report breaks down the nation's best and brightest

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.

    New in Music Alley

    Beyond Category: Arturo Sandovali
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    February 02, 2016 3:53 PM
    Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval is one of the most exciting musicians in jazz. The multi-Grammy winner takes the Blues Alley stage to perform, and sits down with Beyond Category host Eric Felten to talk about his life in music.

    Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval is one of the most exciting musicians in jazz. The multi-Grammy winner takes the Blues Alley stage to perform, and sits down with Beyond Category host Eric Felten to talk about his life in music.