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The Shabby Poetry of Maya Angelou

The recent passing of Maya Angelou generated a predictable panoply of gushing grief from the mainstream media. "The definition of a phenomenal woman" gushed CNN; "Commanding Literary Voice" enthused The New York Times; "A Hymn to Human Endurance", raved Time Magazine.

The latter characterization is actually the most accurate, just not in the way the liberal dolts down at Time would expect. Human endurance is precisely what is needed to get through Angelou's mediocre, pedestrian "literature". The outer boundaries of my own endurance were tested in 12th grade AP English class when we were forced to read Angelou's "On the Pulse of Morning", delivered at Slick Willie's first inaugural.

Already accepted to college and with mere days remaining before graduation, I gleefully vented my youthful fury in a written response to the lousy poem. I compared it to the "masterpieces" of those Soviet poets who waxed eloquent about brave tractor drivers, selfless harvest reapers, and inspiring tunnel diggers. I summoned as much derision and sarcasm as I could and heaped it all onto that sappy, idiotic mediocrity.

  So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
  The African and Native American, the Sioux,
  The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
  The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
  The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
  The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
  They hear. They all hear
  The speaking of the Tree.

The "Tree"? More like a marijuana bush, because only someone under the influence of a narcotic could call that dreck "poetry". And "Teacher"? Sound a bit too much like "Leader" or "Fuhrer", don't you think? I mean, how could you not deride such rubbish!

And then there is this part:

  You, who gave me my first name, you
  Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you
  Cherokee Nation, who rested with me...

Angelou's paean to the Cherokees is especially ironic, in light of their history of slave ownership and their explicitly anti-Black citizenship law, which is an ongoing legal controversy. Maya Angelou, raised on the pedestal of multiculturalism as the Queen of Black writers, praising the Cherokees is like an Irish Republican paying tribute to the British Crown.

A little more than three decades before Slick Willy became our glorious nation's commander-in-chief, another Democratic president was inaugurated. The short poem written by Robert Frost for the occasion and recited by him at that ceremony had these words - a galaxy away from the leftist, multiculturalist nonsense of Maya Angelou:

  The land was ours before we were the land’s
  She was our land more than a hundred years
  Before we were her people. She was ours
  In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
  But we were England’s, still colonials...

The difference between the two poets is not so much a difference of gender, race, or political views as it is a difference in talent, ability, and relevance. No, the difference between Robert Frost and Maya Angelou is the difference between a great classical novel and a supermarket tabloid. Let us hope that in another three decades, Maya Angelou's poem will be relegated to the trash can of history along with the squalid presidency it ushered it.

Eugene Girin

Eugene Girin is a New York-based attorney and commentator.

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