By the time I was coming around to her, Miz Angelou was already a Grand Dame. She had that patrician thing going on, a stentorian voice full of gravitas and particular pronunciation. Not to mention a head of hair that essentially said: 'don't mess with me. I might be warm and loving but if you piss me off I will crack your bones and bury you where even your maker won't find you.'*
And then, you know, teenage girls discover her and suddenly catch an American accent and a deep relationship with spoken word. To this day, I can't stand hearing 'Still I Rise' performed out loud, it makes me crazy. Of course I love it, even though I think the end kind of gets soggy, but there should be a moratorium on public performances of that particular poem.**
Anyways, so I read her books. I'm so, so glad and thankful that she wrote her biography.
Coming to an East African near you this week:
"One greyish kind of day in Washington a couple of years ago, a woman read a poem at some guy's function. It was all about passing it forward. It was quiet and deep and I heard it. It had strength and censure and I heard it. It was simple and timeless and I heard it. So I would like to quote, in memory of Miz Angelou, just the one line of Elizabeth Alexander's offering on that day: “A teacher says, take out your pencils. Begin.”"
*Scary Feminist Hair is an old and very rich artform. Think Grace Jones. Or Hilary Clinton's perfectly sized mid-chin helmet. Et cetera.
**She's already dead so she can't kill me and bury me where even my maker won't find me :)***
*** Actually, I would love to see Still I Rise performed with great subversion by everyone who ISN't a Black Woman. Now that, folks, would be balls. Wait, I meant to say 'art'.