MAYA ANGELOU

Her PC credentials are beyond reproach. She carries herself with the dignity of a well-paid academic celebrity. She speaks

in a serious

expressive

 

tone and

 

a

 

deliberate,

meaningful

cadence.

She’s the go-to poet for presidential inaugurations, Kennedy Center galas, and other large, well-funded events where the content or artistic value of a poem is irrelevant, but having heard of the poet is. She’s the Paul Shaffer of poetry. (“Guys! We’ve got a televised all-star band tribute to a famous rock star. Make sure Paul Shaffer is available!”) She might be a very nice lady too. And yet Maya Angelou’s poetry is uniformly, strikingly, fascinatingly terrible. Try reading one of her poems. We dare you. Just hearing the first stanza makes us tremble with dread: flashbacks to graduation ceremonies in the blazing sun, or an endless outdoor theater festival we made the mistake of attending.

Okay, you say, it’s her delivery that makes her poetry so “powerful.” Poetry is an oral tradition, you say. That is true. But also true: her pretentious delivery makes her pedestrian verse ten times worse. (Hey, that rhymes!) If you want to actually enjoy a Maya Angelou-style poem, you need to imagine her writing and reciting a Froot Loops commercial:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPrwX-O7IM0&NR=1

Now that is brilliant.

The bottom line on Maya Angelou is that she’s symptomatic of what’s wrong with modern poetry in general. It’s controlled by an overly cerebral, politically correct academic establishment. It serves as a meta-comment on what poetry is supposed to be, rather than standing on its own as an art form. And it anoints a select few, like Angelou, to serve as bland ambassadors for something that really shouldn’t have ambassadors. Poetry may be in trouble as an art form, but trotting out the likes of Maya Angelou to grimly bear the cross doesn’t help matters.

5 Responses to “MAYA ANGELOU”

  1. Jesse

    She’s pretentious, contrived and vastly overrated. And how many autobiographies does one need to write?!

    Reply
  2. Verisimilitude

    I knew that I could not be the only person on the planet to feel this way about Angelou’s poetry. What a relief. I have not read her ‘Caged Bird’ autobiography so I cannot comment regarding her craftsmanship when it comes to prose, but — oh, heaven help us — the poems and her alleged “words of wisdom”! Years and years of auspicious poems trundled-out to us, and all of them strike me as banal, vapid and worthy of the musings of an oversensitive first-year sorority girl, at best. I almost feel as if I’m going to be struck by lightning for saying such a thing; Angelou has indeed been propped-up and canonized to such an astonishing degree. I have to giggle when I come across someone on social media who has quoted her on topics like love or friendship. “Friendship is like the flypaper of the soul. True hearts buzz around and get stuck to you forever.” That is not one of her actual quotes, but that pretty much captures the tenor and general incoherence of her quips, in my experience. Bafflingly awful. The voice/delivery is such an affectation, too, I fear. But it has fooled a lot of people into thinking she has more gravitas than God. I have a feeling she is a very nice lady. I hope so. My gosh, the Obama inauguration poem was bad enough to curl your hair. Bless her heart.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one. I’ve had to endure the likes of a white, feminist boss, who are among those who’ve overrated Ms Angelou to the point I felt like I’d be struck by lightening if I dared to say ‘but she’s crap!’

    Reply

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