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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

At Washington’s Blues Alley jazz singer Jane Monheit and her quartet perform songs made famous by Judy Garland. Monheit sits down with "Beyond Category" host Eric Felten to talk about her music, the singers who influence her, and her life traveling with family on tour.