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Maya Angelou

Safe At Last.

About Artists on Writers


Writers will always find inspiration in the visions of artists, always feeling compelled to tell the stories behind the moments captured in artists’ unforgettable images,

Just as,

Artists will always find inspiration in the words of writers, always feeling compelled to lend visual reality and habitat to the characters described in the scribe’s haunting words.

Critics consider Maya Angelou’s most important writing to be her seven autobiographies, thinly disguised as novels, beginning with
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969). The depiction of her childhood rape, compounded by institutionalized racism, which serves as the core of her first book, has resulted in the work being regularly banned by schools and libraries, yet praised as a lifesaving resource by rape victims and counselors.

I Know Why… has become almost a rite of passage for teenaged girls. Her mother’s boyfriend raped her. Maya told her brother about the assault. The rapist was arrested and found guilty. He served his sentence of one day in jail. Justice awaited him upon release. In four days he was killed. Maya’s uncles were suspected. Young Maya’s psyche was gravely affected. She became mute, unable to speak for the next five years, knowing her voice, her words, had the power to kill.

Her respect for “the word” would evolve into her becoming not only a particularly sensitive and acute witness and observer of her life and times, but a writer and poet whose voice has inspired and changed the lives of generations of the oppressed and the rebellious.She would come to be friends with other masters of the written and spoken word who “moved mountains” with their voices:Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin among others.

Maya went on to become a Renaissance woman of the working-class and lower depths of the Black American experience.Her resume reads as if written by Dante, but it’s accented throughout with the arts. Maya Anelou was a prostitute, but also a cast member of Porgy and Bess.She was a fry cook and a trolley-car conductor, but also a nightclub dancer and singer.In later life she became the Northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a leading organization in the American civil rights movement, and worked as a reporter doing dangerous duty in strife-riven Egypt and Ghana. She taught as a professor, received major recognition including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, and lectured internationally at colleges, churches and other venues incessantly, mostly about civil and human rights and poetry.It was as if she were making up for her years of being voiceless by never again allowing for even a moment’s silence when she could be continuing her conversation with her “prayer” for life.

An author of searing indictments against the injustices suffered by Blacks and the other groups of the American underclass, a firebrand activist during the Sixties, a radical feminist present at the birth of modern feminism, why is it that most Americans know of Maya Angelou only as “the poet” who read a poem at Bill Clinton’s inauguration? The answer would seem to be that in all the things Maya did and in all of the roles she assumed, the label of “poet” has always been the safest choice for polite society. Unlike Europe and throughout the Arab world, in America “poet” means a frail old man in a sweater at the library rasping the lines of what might as well be a dead language. Poets are not dangerous and upsetting in American culture. Poets are safe. To call Maya Angelou simply a “poet” is a missed appreciation on the scope of her art and the power of her revolutionary spirit.

But what of Maya’s many volumes of poetry? Her poetry is as much about actual survival as it is about the beauty of the poem as art. American academics label her poems “African-American anthemics,” meaning they are often written to be more the scripts for pieces of audience-involving performance art known as “call and response,” rather than lines on a page to be delicately dissected for hidden meaning. Her Audio Books are where you will find the amazing power of Maya Angelou’s poetry, far more than reading lines on the printed page. It is her voice, in all that a voice can be, that distinguishes her art.

With her death, at 86, last week, her books of poems are now artifacts of her life, which was itself a living poem - a once raging fire that has now been extinguished but lives on in our memories, in her words and in her voice.

It seems appropriate on deviantART to say with conviction, live your life as Maya Angelou lived hers and if you can, speak as she did.

featured poems by maya

passing time by maya anagelou


Your skin like dawn

Mine like musk

One paints the beginning

of a certain end.

The other, the end of a

sure beginning.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

The free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wings

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with fearful trill

of the things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn

and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.

byMaya Angelou

And Still I Rise by maya anagelou


The Triumph Project



Some of us in Community Relations invite you to participate in a new Project in remembrance of Dr. Angelou, one that grew out of a suggestion by Aeirmid. Together, we'll be creating art about triumph, be it personal, societal, or even hypothetical. At the end of the project, all deviations will be featured. This isn't a contest; it is a way for us to use our talents, following Dr. Angelou's example, to enrich our community.

What counts as triumphant? That's up to you. It could be a non-fiction biographical account of an historic leader, or an autobiographical poem about a personal moment of triumph. It could be a painting that captures a victorious feeling, or a photomanipulation that tells a story of triumph. Start with the theme of triumph, and see where it takes you!

Check it out!

Questions For the Reader


  1. Did you ever attend a lecture by Maya Angelou? If so, what are your memories of her passion and fight?

  2. Have you ever attended a poetry reading that turned into a genuine Call to Action or full-scale protest spilling into the streets?

  3. What are your impressions with how teachers and professors teach poetry, especially the poetry of radical revolutionary poets, in classes you have attended?

  4. Is the political or human message of a poem more important than a poem’s structure, or is the artistic crafting of the poem just as important?

  5. Are there living, working published poets today whose poems have inspired you?

Critics consider Maya Angelo’s most important writing to be her seven autobiographies, thinly disguised as novels, beginning with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969). The depiction of her childhood rape, compounded by institutionalized racism, which serves as the core of her first book, has resulted in the work being regularly banned by schools and libraries, yet praised as a lifesaving resource by rape victims and counselors.

Writers: techgnotic 
Designers: h3ll0jason

For more artciles like this, visit depthRADIUS 
Add a Comment:
MariColl Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
what a wonderful tribute to Maya Angelou. Thank you for adding  my art. You did an  awesome job. :clap:
lovelymars908 Featured By Owner Jul 16, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
She was inspirational, alright. :) I read one of her poems in class. and it was the "Why the Caged Bird Sings" :)
AutumnAngelArt Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014  Professional General Artist
This is a well organized journal entry! Thank you for including my art piece. All the compositions together create an outstanding memoir. Hello, butterfly You did a good job.
GladeFaun Featured By Owner Jun 20, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I'll be honest and say when I heard about her death I had no idea who this woman was. Having read the above, and watched the video of her performing 'I Rise' I can understand the outpouring of grief her death prompted. Such a wonderful, spirited woman. For me, I think my first stop now has got to be her Calypso music - I'm intrigued.
Thank you all for the education.
MonsterH2O Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
Good tribute to Maya, she was truly great. A one of a kind person, now gone forever. :(
TheGalleryOfEve Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Great tribute!!! :iconflyingheartsplz::clap::clap::clap::iconflyingheartsplz:
Zulphia Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
R.I.P, Maya Angelou. :'D
TarynNefdt Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2014   Digital Artist
While this is a well written tribute, it would have been nice/phenomenal for dA to feature an African American feminist writer and her perspectives on Maya Angelou.

Her poetry [Maya Angelou's] speaks to one on the feminist level and on the minority level - since I'm both, her work has an added depth to me. I really think Maya Angelou and Betty Friedan are two of the literary pillars of the feminist community.

I also don't think one should make a conceptual distinction between art and writing. Literature to me, is just another art form and instead of using pencils/pens/pastels to convey a message, one uses words. Writers use words, grammar and punctuation as tools to convey the dichotomy of life and artists do the same using pencil/pens/GIMP/Photoshop.
SRaffa Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2014  Professional General Artist
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is one of the best written memoirs I've ever encountered-- the first four pages, all by themselves, leave you with no choice but to sit down and be amazed by every paragraph of it.
BoxxMannDA Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
When I was younger I did a project in maya Angelou because she was a writer and even though now I'm more interested in the visual arts than I was with writing I still remember and hon our this great woman and didn't think this article would exist. It's nice to see that there are artist that visualize her work
BrooklynTurbo Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
TimberClipse Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2014  Professional Filmographer
Wonderful article, Maya Angelou has influenced the world so much, it's amazing to see what a single person can do. 
TerramArmsXIII Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
awesome article, great work!
spoems Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2014   Writer
WorldWar-Tori Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2014   General Artist
Absolutely beautiful article :heart:
sergio323 Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2014  Professional General Artist
i still can't find the words... Thank you... 
rafun1312 Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
1 & 2: I wish, but no. 
3: I had actually once had a poetry teacher (not a school class, but a workshop I attended), who called himself a poet, who told theclass that poetry should not cover topics of political or philosophical nature, as those were supposedly too big for poetry, and too far away from everyday-life. I only attended the first day of the week. In my country (germany) modern poetry is hardly covered at all in school. Sometimes in advanced English literature classes stuff that's a little more radical will pop up. 
4: For me, message will always come before form. Perfect form without a message is meaningless. Politicians might speak for an hour and say nothing, but poets shouldn't. However, good form is also important to enhance a message, and a big message should never be an excuse for bad form. Writing is a craft, and every craftman should know his tools. 
5: sometimes, here on DA. one of my absolute faves for its simplicity:…
TheMaidenInBlack Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2014
This is a really lovely article. She deserves all the love, the respect, the admiration and eternal remembrance.
Mr-Ripley Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Love her quote.
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2014  Professional General Artist
Thank you. Thank you so, so much for doing this. She will be sorely missed.
LadyLincoln Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
A lovely article.

Thank you for the honor of being a part of it. :heart:
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
I love this :)
chromeantennae Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I'm honored to be a part of this astounding journal. :heart:
ShadowedAcolyte Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2014
Awesome. Thanks for putting this together.

1. No, though I wish I had. I could have, for sure, since she worked in North Carolina not too far away from where I was.
2. Not really. I once attended a poetry reading with passed jello shots that spilled out into a crazy bar crawl, but that's significantly different.
3. I think that middle school and general high school poetry education is generally atrocious, focusing on poets that are technically modern but whose words and themes and patterns are almost a century old, and then assigning work that is purely formed, so that students come away with an idea of poetry as opaque, rhymed, and syllable-counted, which is certainly not always true. Poems of a revolutionary nature are hardly discussed, unless there's maybe a Langston Hughes poem thrown in. In AP-type high school classes and college courses, you can get better teaching, focusing on truly contemporary writers or at least talking in more depth about the circumstances surrounding a poet's life. I remember some of the best revolutionary poetry I ever read was in a Spanish class focusing on modernismo poets like Rubén Darío, because we got to talk about the cultural background.
4. I think the artistic crafting is more important. No matter how serious or important the topic, if the poem is poorly written it won't have the necessary impact. Conversely, poems about everyday themes and events can be quite evocative.
5. Wendy Cope springs to mind. Her turn of phrase is so sharp I've cut myself on it, or something like that. Very inspiring.

Thanks again for a great article!
SingingFlames Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Beautiful tribute for such a wonderful and influential person. :clap:
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