Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sleep Well, Maya!

In a week characterized by bad news, the announcement of polymath Maya Angelou's death was just another sad tale. Ms Angelou had a storied career as a teacher, activist, author, poet, and dancer. My personal favorite performance by her was her narration of a video at the Hayden Planetarium, a tour de force about the vastness of the cosmos, delivered in her inimitable voice. Sadly, I can't find any audio for this presentation, but it was a recording that I would listen to with delight every time I visited the place.

Ms Angelou combined the keen eye of a journalist with the humanity of a survivor... even when dealing with difficult subjects, she conveyed a love of life, a love of people. Her passing was, as she put it in her eulogy of Nelson Mandela, "expected, but still unwelcome"- after all, she made it to 86. Here is "His Day is Done", her panegyric to Mandela:

Maya Angelou's eulogy could have applied to herself in many ways- she never lost her grace in the face of difficulty. Her wisdom was hard-won, her humanity undiminished by the cynicism or despair that would have consumed many under similar circumstances.

I'm going to finish this post with a video from 1957's Miss Calypso album. Stone Cold Dead in the Market is a song about a woman who, after a lifetime of abuse at the hands of her husband, kills him in public. Given the details of her biography, I imagine that Ms Angelou was singing with some empathy, though she found a more felicitous release from the horrors of her youth:

Sleep well, Maya, you articulated truths that had been too long ignored, with a lyricism that never faltered.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

That is a fine tribute, B^4.

Patricia said...

I don't know if anyone associated the word "genius" with her work, but she surely was. The wonderful thing about her work is that so many people regardless of gender or race connected with her writing. I still have as one of my favorites, "I Still Rise" I read it in times of trouble or celebration. I can only imagine the party waiting for her as she takes her rightful place in Poets Corner in heaven. You gave her a lovely tribute.