A Pioneer… Dr. Maya Angelou

Phenomenal Woman

Dr. Maya Angelou is one of my favorite poets. In my opinion, she’s an amazing writer and story-teller. Her birth name is Marguerite Ann Johnson who was born April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri but was raised in segregated rural Arkansas. Not only has she published several books on poetry, many autobiographies and books of essays, she has also appeared on television and in films. She can add director, producer, singer and dancer, to her long list of accomplishments too. She has traveled the world giving lectures and let’s not forget her work as a civil rights activist.
To me she is a pioneer for all women.

When I first heard her speak, on the Oprah Winfrey Show and she read one of her poems [Still I Rise], I was mesmerized by her voice and deliberation. From that day forward I was hooked and became a fan. When I listen to her speak, in an interview, give a lecture, or recite one of her poems, I am completely in tuned with what she is saying. I find her work very empowering and her as a whole, inspiring!

Her story still amazes me. At the age of 8 she was sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend. He was found guilty but was released from jail a day later. This man was murdered four days after his release. There were rumors that Mayas family members had something to do with his death. After this, Maya did not speak for close to five years. Maya felt that speaking out and reporting the abuse caused his death. She thought she would never speak again.

Thank goodness for all of us, that she learned to love books and literature. She became very good at listening and observing her surroundings. The rest you can say, is history.

Below is a collection of a few of my favorite poems and quotes by the legendary Dr. Maya Angelou.


Your hands easy
weight, teasing the bees
hived in my hair, your smile at the
slope of my cheek. On the
occasion, you press above me, glowing, spouting
readiness, mystery rapes
my reason.

When you have withdrawn
your self and the magic, when
only the smell of your
love lingers between
my breasts, then, only
then, can I greedily consume
your presence.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies.
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Touched by an Angel

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

In and Out of Time



”Self-pity in its early stage is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. Gather Together in My Name, vol. 2, ch. 6 (1974).

”I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. originally published in Girl About Town (Oct. 13, 1986). Kicking Ass (interview), Conversations with Maya Angelou, ed. Jeffrey M. Elliot (1989).

”Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They 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 woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. Phenomenal Woman, And Still I Rise (1978).

”If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning “Good morning” at total strangers.”

Maya Angelou (b. 1928), U.S. author. Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, vol. 3, ch. 5 (1976). Quoting her mother’s advice.

~ Michelle Molloy ~


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