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Thursday, May 29, 2014

RIP, Maya Angelou

Quotation in this post are all Maya Angelou's words.
Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.”

I once told my Mother, “Ugh, I hate jazz!” and I even made a face. She rolled her eyes, but she was more annoyed than horrified. She later told me she knew I'd fall on the right side of reason because I am, after all, her child...

I do love jazz in many of its styles. Moreover, despite my childish rejection of it on that one terrible occasion, the truth is that under the right kind of questioning it turned out that I had been exposed to and already liked a great variety of jazz styles – it's just that I had been under the false impression that this music was “something else.”

And it was not cool. Nope! Anything but cool.

At some point, I was indoctrinated into believing that “jazz” included ragtime and avant garde styles – but irrelevant without context and not as sexy as bebop or Latin jazz, and completely oblivious of fusion forms.

I tend to make the same noises about poets and poetry. “Ugh!” and the face.

That tends to be crap too. The biggest killer of a love for poetry is the education system in this country. I don't mind admitting that I got suicidal during an extended reading of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I wanted to jump into the pages, shoot the albatross and beat the old guy with the dead bird (half to death and drown him!). 

It was not my finest scholastic moment.

A good poet has an expert understanding of words, and music, and color and texture and taste, of language to a degree that it evokes the divine.

Poets aren't necessarily good writers beyond poetry. I note Canadian dynamo Margaret Atwood as an outstanding example of a great writer. Even as she can weave an interesting yarn, what I remember most about reading one of my favorite books, The Handmaid's Tale, was the cadence.

So expert at writing poetry, her sentences were short and packed with meaning, and as you read, their delicate simplicity invited you to read faster to meet the story sooner until it left your brain and soul breathless and dizzy, thirsty, hungry, and exhausted!

Then there was Maya Angelou.
If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die.”
She was a youthful kinda of 86 in an old-soul package. I cannot say I loved every piece of work the woman produced, but I appreciated the loving craft she put into every word she shared. There was something almost divine in the way she treated words.
Love is that condition in the human spirit so profound that it allows me to survive, and better than that, to thrive with passion, compassion, and style.”

My introduction to her work, of course, was “I Know What the Caged Bird Sings” – it was a rite of passage in many ways.
Poetry is music written for the human voice.”

She lived a remarkable life (good, bad, spectacular, dramatic and tragic); and I hope that her legacy has the endurance the work and the woman truly deserves. To her, with her, in her existed a certain magic in her use of language, she loved word so that every one she spoke and each word she wrote she created and delivered with a metaphysical caress.
Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.”

She released her words with love, pure and unadulterated love. Sometimes there was passion, and sometimes wisdom, some humor, the odd moment of regret; but above all, there was love: of life, of learning, of being a woman, despite it all!
“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.”
An artist may finish a piece and its beauty is plain for all to see, on their own terms. And so the finality of death completes the artwork of one life. But much like art, the beauty of the piece is rarely immediate. Beauty depends as much on endurance and environment as it does on those admiring it. And therein lies immortality. That is where she exists now...
If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.”

Good night, you honey-tongued ebony queen!

And finally, words that I feel deeply:
There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.”

In response, as I mourned the passing of one of our literary living legends, I wrote 339 words in three acts (morning, mid and late afternoon). My words may never reach the quality of some of her best work, but I aspire to greatness and will rise to the challenge every time. I cannot compete, but I can learn from her passion.

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