Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Maya Angelou – Woman if Distinction

There have been many tributes over the past few days, but I can’t let Maya Angelou’s passing go without voicing my own accolades. Even if you didn’t agree with her politics, you have to agree that her spirit and message were magnificent.

As a young woman, I read her prose, books and poems in awe. Their clarity and strength had a great impact on me. She had music in her heart and in her poems. Her words danced across the pages and her ideas echoed in my heart like a song.

Rather than repeating what many of you have read over the past week, I thought I’d share the words that others have said about her. I’m using my local newspaper “The News-Press of Southwest Florida” and reading from the “Views” section, Letters to the Editor. Here are the words of a few locals:

“On May 28, the world lost a poetic legend . . . I remember listening to her read ‘On the Pulse of Morning,’ the poem she read at the Inauguration of Pres. Bill Clinton. This has become one of my favorite poems. Poems like ‘Still I rise’ and ‘Phenomenal Woman’ became an anthem for women all over the world. . .The quote I remember the most which has influenced my life is:

"This is your life, not your grandmother, not your mother, not your grandfather, not your father but your life and you can do whatever you want to do with it." The world has lost a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a sister, and a poetic legend all in one.” Fred Atkins, (News Press Editorial Board citizen member) Fort Myers

“Her quotes are real, and they can be applied to everyday life. I live by many of her quotes, one being, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” Oftentimes we look for a reason why we can’t do something, now I look for the reason why I can.

“Maya Angelou lived her life to inspire others and I am thankful to be one of them. I took from her the quote ‘Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.’ . . . She will be missed; I’m so glad our paths have crossed.” Larry Hart, (Lee County Tax Collector) Fort Myers

“A bird rising and singing after being down is one of Maya’s signature metaphors, prevailing in two of her most famous works, ‘I know Why the Caged Bird sings’ and “Still I Rise.” The metaphor haunted me for two years until one day I wrote:

A Secret Poem in Everyone
"A secret poem in everyone!
Reluctant inner bird
Awaiting clear permission
To let its song be heard --
Or for a moment resonant
With timbre all its own
To open wide the cage inside
And free that special song.

“Thank you, Maya Angelou, for your poetry, presence and inspiration. You shall rise always in our thoughts and memory.” Joe Pacheco, Sanibel

"Broken" 11 x 14 mixed media on canvas
“In addition to Maya’s wide canon of work, she penned several books for children. A classic is ‘Life Doesn’t Frighten Me at All’ (1993). Written in spare poetry, a series of triplets deal with emotions and fanciful imaginings of childhood:

            ‘Shadows on the wall
            Noises down the hall
            Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

“The book is illustrated by Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose impressionistic paintings are held in galleries throughout the world including the Norton Gallery of Art in West Palm Beach.” Lee Bennett Hopkins, (award winning children’s writer) Sanibel

Maya herself once said: “While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.”

Maya is now dancing and singing with the angels, praising God as she did throughout her lifetime. Surely her goodness will be rewarded and her gifts to the world will be treasured and remembered forever.

"Reggae Night" acrylic on canvas / framed