“Let my name perish – the poetry is good poetry and the music is good music, and beauty dieth not, and the heart that needs it will find it.”
– Sidney Lanier
Amodest Georgia poet, Sidney Lanier was ever so wrong about his name perishing; a major Atlanta-area lake will forever bear it.
But he was so right that beauty dieth not. And such is the case with America’s poet, Maya Angelou.
Ms. Angelou’s poetic beauty was well-enough known. She spoke at Bill Clinton’s inauguration, and became a de facto poet laureate for America.
But lesser known was the inestimable beauty of her own life story, made all the more luminous by the rampant ugliness her flower burst from: a rape at age 7, and nearly six years of abject silence she observed in the wake of it; racism, segregation and oppression.
She was unbowed. Even as a teenage single mother, she explored the world of music and dance, ultimately touring Europe and performing in New York. She recorded an album. And she wrote. She never got a formal college education, but she didn’t need that to warrant some 30 honorary degrees.
Her autobiography was titled, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, but in truth she came to reject the existence of the cage. Her indefatigable adventurism and irrepressible spirit was its own song to life.
She was a self-made woman – women, really: San Francisco’s first streetcar driver at age 16; a self-taught speaker of six languages; a foreign newspaper editor; a university teacher and more. No alpinist ever climbed greater peaks from more nethermost starting points.
But she will be remembered mostly as a poet, and her name will never perish – and how beautiful is that?
Indeed, for a woman who overcame unspeakable violence and abhorrent racism, it is