Dr. Maya Angelou, the great voice of American letters and human rights, who grew up in the tiny town of Stamps, Arkansas, is dead at age 86. She died at her home in North Carolina where she was teaching at Wake Forest University.
Maya Angelou’s writing and voice imprinted on me at an early age. My Mom and Grandmother are from Magnolia, Arkansas, 18 miles east of Stamps on Rt. 82. She wrote about her experiences in “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.”
In 1982, she traveled with Bill Moyers back to Stamps – the first time she’d returned since leaving as a teenager, for a piece titled “The Black Side of the Tracks” (see video clip above).
On Jan. 20, 1993, she returned American poetry to its place in democracy when she was asked to be the poet for President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Her reading of On The Pulse of Morning, written for the occasion, was reminiscent of Robert Frost’s reading of The Gift Outright at Kennedy’s inauguration–but her poem and voice carried the voice of the ancestors and the prophets. It has become a classic of American literature.
Poet Antoinette Brim, author of Psalm of the Sunflower, was part of the Willow Books Reading at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness in 2010. Her poem “Let Daylight Come” ran recently in Split This Rock’s Poem of the Week.
Let Daylight Come (Little Rock, circa 2008)
–after Jane Kenyon
Let the moon untangle itself
from the clothesline, as coming daylight
diminishes its lamp to memory.
Let the cicada vow silence
as a woman stirs her grits
and beats her eggs. Let daylight come.
Let school children shuffle into yellow
buses. Let the asphalt roll out black
into the distance. Let daylight come.
Let the dew dry to ash on the brow
of a man. Let traffic thunder across
the overpass above his head. Let daylight come.
To his bottle in the ditch, to his cardboard
and crayon, to the cough in his lungs,
let daylight come.
Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. This, too, is the day
the Lord has made, so let daylight come.
Brim is a Cave Canem Foundation fellow, a recipient of the Walker Foundation Scholarship to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has appeared in various journals, magazines and anthologies. Used by permission from Split This Rock Poem of the Week. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Contact Split This Rock at 202-787-5210 or [email protected]