Maya Angelou By: Cassidy Murphy and FatouSylla
Background Information • Angelou is a remarkable poet • She is a renaissance artist , memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist • Came from a broken household and lived in poverty for the majority of her childhood • Has her own writing ritual for her books and poems
Born and Raised • Born on April 4th, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri • Growing up Angelou experienced the brutality of racial discrimination and sexual abuse • besides the prejudices, she could not hide her faith and values of traditional African-American family, community, and culture. • Was raped by her mothers boyfriend at a young age and was mute for years after
School • As a teenager she received a scholarship to study dance and drama at San Francisco’s Labor School • At 17, she dropped out to become San Francisco’s first African-American female cable car conductor • As a young single mother, she supported her son by working as a waitress and cook • She was determined to go back to school and fulfill her dream • Her passion for music, dance, performance, and poetry would soon take center stage • Went to the Alvin Ailey school of dance and toured with dancers there
The beginning of her poetic career • Soon after X's assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked Dr. Angelou to serve as Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership King's assassination, falling on her birthday in 1968, left her devastated. • With the guidance of her friend, the novelist James Baldwin, she began work on the book that would become I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. • Joined the Harlem Writers Guild, an organization that worked to publish the works of African Americans in that time • Writing was revolutionary as it took a look at the ugly side of life
Fame from her Poetic Justice • She has been called "America's most visible black female autobiographer" • She is best known for her series of six autobiographical volumes, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. • The first and most highly acclaimed, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her first seventeen years. • It brought her international recognition, and was nominated for a National Book Award. • She has been awarded over 30 honorary degrees and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her 1971 volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie. • Recited at President Clinton’s inaugeration
Poetic Style and Common Themes • The style of Maya Angelou can range from: • complex symbolical ideas to easy straightforward concepts • her style is like a story • the vocabulary is usually easy to understand and not too complicated • sometimes she writes in normal four line stanzas with rhyme and rhythm and sometimes she does not. • she is very honest, open, and she shows her emotions. All types of emotions are portrayed in her work.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreamshis shadow shouts on a nightmare screamhis wings are clipped and his feet are tiedso he opens his throat to singThe caged bird singswith a fearful trillof things unknownbut longed for stilland his tune is heardon the distant hillfor the caged birdsings of freedom. The caged bird singswith fearful trillof the things unknownbut longed for stilland is tune is heardon the distant hill for the caged birdsings of freedomThe free bird thinks of another breezean the trade winds soft through the sighing treesand the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawnand he names the sky his own. • The free bird leapson the back of the windand floats downstreamtill the current endsand dips his wingsin the orange sun raysand dares to claim the sky.But a bird that stalksdown his narrow cagecan seldom see throughhis bars of ragehis wings are clipped andhis feet are tiedso he opens his throat to sing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-chFYuYOfKs
Phenomenal Woman • Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's sizeBut when I start to tell them,They think I'm telling lies.I say,It's in the reach of my armsThe span of my hips,The stride of my step,The curl of my lips.I'm a womanPhenomenally.Phenomenal woman,That's me.I walk into a roomJust as cool as you please,And to a man,The fellows stand orFall 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 womanPhenomenally.Phenomenal woman,That's me. Men themselves have wonderedWhat they see in me.They try so muchBut they can't touchMy inner mystery.When I try to show themThey 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 womanPhenomenally.Phenomenal woman,That's me. Now you understandJust why my head's not bowed.I don't shout or jump aboutOr have to talk real loud.When you see me passingIt 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 of my care,'Cause I'm a womanPhenomenally.Phenomenal woman,That's me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEz6BsYP5vc
Discussion Questions: • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wj9tw23f3vw • Do you think Maya Angelou’s poems’ are just based on personal reflection? • How much do you think Maya Angelou’s childhood influenced her poetry? • What ultimately made Maya Angelou look to poetry and art as an escape?