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The Shabby Poetry of Maya Angelou

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By:Eugene Girin | May 30, 2014

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.



Los Angeles
5/30/2014 08:45 PM

  Again, well done Mr. Girin. Angelou's "poem" was a rhyming exercise in incoherence.

Dan Hayes
Rego Park
5/30/2014 08:58 PM

  Thank you for serving us a well-deserved putdown of Maya Angelou.For some reason or other I subjected myself to listening to Angelou's inaugural dribble. My criticisms of it were superciliously dismissed by a colleague who fancied himself a poet. At the time I regarded his judgment as characteristic of the liberal mindset: closed-minded and smug. I certainly don't regard myself to be a poet, but I do regard myself as a connoisseur of hogwash (poetic and otherwise). And Ms. Angelou served us a mighty draft of poetic hogwash.

San Antonio
5/31/2014 04:54 AM

  Eugene perhaps you would like to recite that poem accompanied by a hip-hop beat or Cherokee tom-tom. Then everyone could smoke-um peace pipe.

Tom Piatak
5/31/2014 02:35 PM

  A very good piece.

raymond olson
st. Paul
5/31/2014 02:46 PM

  I'll admit that I'd never read or heard a line of the late Ms. Angelou's inaugural ditty--that's how long I've been studiously avoiding politics! I'm pleased, I guess, to see that I hadn't missed anything not worth missing. I do remember Frost's inaugural "saying" (as he commonly called the recitation of a poem). Never forget that, as for party allegiance, Frost was a lifelong Democrat. Indeed, in the "Preliminary History in Rhyme" with which he prefaced in print his "Gift Outright of 'The Gift Outright'" (the title of the poem he said), he wrote of the inauguration, "Today is for my cause a day of days," and by "cause" he surely meant the Democratic Party as well as poetry. That is confirmed by later lines extolling "The greatest vote a people ever cast" and declaring that the event "makes the prophet in us all presage / The glory of a next Augustan age", "A golden age of poetry and power." By the way, I suggest that the characterization of the Republicans as the stupid party and the Democrats as the evil party be amended. The Republicans are the evil party and the Democrats, the corrupt party. Or vice versa, if you will. Are you listening, Mr. Cadfael?


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