Her words touched us all. The Authors Collection
June 10, 2014
SEVERAL BLOGS BACK, I wrote on the passing of Spanish literary giant Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The passing of anyone is a time of loss for those the person has touched. When that person has touched the lives of millions, that feeling of loss reaches across the boundaries of family and geography.
Recently, another force in literature and entertainment departed. Maya Angelou excelled in many fields. From an extremely humble beginning, she pulled herself up to be chosen to recite one of her own poems, On the Pulse of Morning, at the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton, the first poet to have that honor since Robert Frost read a poem at the John F. Kennedy inauguration in 1961. A recording of the poem was awarded a Grammy Award.
Maya’s talents were not limited to poetry. She was a singer, a dancer, an actress (nominated for a Tony Award), a playwright, an editor. She directed movies, composed music for movies and TV, and wrote songs for popular singer Roberta Flack. And Oprah Winfrey called Maya her mentor.
Angelou wrote seven autobiographies, and in those she challenged the traditional structure of autobiographies. Her best known book, and the first of the biographies, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was published in 1969, and rocketed her to international fame. It was nominated for a National Book Award and remained on The New York Times bestseller list for over two years. Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie, a book of her poetry, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1971. She published three books of essays.
Maya was also well-known for statements that cut to the heart of the matter. “Nothing will work unless you do.” “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” “Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” And one of my favorites, “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”
For over twenty years, Maya held the title of Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University, teaching writing, ethics, theatre, and philosophy.
Is it any wonder that a memorial for Maya drew former president Clinton, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and countless stars from the literary and entertainment communities. And while Maya was outstanding in many fields, it is significant that her greatest achievements were in the field of literature. Her words have and will continue to have an impact on people across the world.
The written word still has incredible power to influence people.
Please click the book cover image to read more about James R. Callan and his novels.