1) Although Angelou writes almost exclusively for African Americans, she has a huge following from other races. Why do you think this is?
The Honorable Mother Maya writes from her experience as a human being first. Yes, I know that sounds cliche’-ish… “same-ing”, if you will, the initiation of a struggling explanation, but if one listened to ‘Mother-Sister’, you can sense what was an insistent appetency to set right and at the same time comfort in her addressing us… all of us. Although her literary gifts to us were addressed from a woman’s eyes, simply because she was one, she was the glowing and towering, vibrant, flowing seductive and insistent, yet sweetly confident member of this human race first and wanted us all to feel that same sublime rendering of naked and free’d expression of self.
Little girls, givers of life- [where her story and destiny begins] come in all colors and influences and each deserves love and encouraging and protecting. If the opposite is present, the difference dissipates and only the commonality of pain and tragedy, joy and ascending, remain- none of which is specific to any particular race, opinion, or culture. Her living is / was certainly on common ground with the human spirit set in each of us regardless of our location or station or not; as well as her truths. That kind of naked, bold, unencumbered, raw, vivid, biting and sometimes seducing caressing, and loving truth in her writing, sets us all on common playing ground.
How would you characterize Angelou’s style – her language, her tone, her choice of metaphors, and so on?
The ‘Darling’ of her language was sometimes as classic as Shakespeare, and easily transitioned into the colloquialisms found in impulsive conversation among ‘the girls’, front porch opinionated neighborly conversational intercourse, 1:37 a.m. telephone necessities, and scholarly podium ‘pontificating’.
Her style was never without the nakedness of authoritative substantiated honesty and in the expounding, thus demystifying any question about the meaning or intent of whatever it was. She, in her inimitable way, made known the ’rooting-ground’ of the subject matter, and the fruit- bitter or sweet, of the condition inferred or disrobed.
Her tone- boisterous and whispering sometimes at the same time, was hands raised in the air with head thrown back, hands on hips ‘signifying’ the way only the African American informing culture can do, from the throne of an overstuffed comfortable chair next to a window in her sacred North Carolina home, or sitting on the haunted stoop of her newly acquired Harlem brownstone- figuratively, but undoubtedly intense without harm, rather always the intense informing the heart, always leaving us looking into some distance quiet with ‘food, soul food, for thought’.
Her metaphors invoke the color of imagination, the clarity of which often illusive, hindered by the boundaries adopted in the storms of ‘shoulds’ and ‘ought-to’s’. ‘Mother’ simply takes what is prescribed language, and accesses her heart to tell the truth disclosing what niceties would otherwise keep hidden to ‘save face’; her work is the ‘ugly cry’, the ‘ugly face’ when a song becomes a hot piercing poker or wings to ride on, the breathless wet and warm and sweat after ‘the passion play’ in sheets where that repeated dance begs for more… more music, more rhythm, just repeatedly… more.
3. There are a lot of strong women narrated in Angelou’s work, which one resonates strong with you and why?
There is a woman, probably sitting quietly- watching with all in her… a man.
It’s night. It’s a poetry reading. He’s reading, or performing his truth. Vulnerable and sensual. And, she thinks, quite loudly to herself, yet in a breathy whisper just under audible recognition-
Give me your hand
Make room for me
to lead and follow
beyond this rage of poetry.
Let others have
the privacy of touching words
For me Give me your hand.
Maya’s, A CONCEIT.
Resonating is the ridding of the pretentious. Peeling back the safe cover of what is expected. A deeper reasoning of and for connection. “Give me your hand”. This for me, sums up the Reverent Dr. Mother, Honorable, Regal and Noble- human, needing, satisfied, fallible and holy Maya Angelou… ancestor who speaks to me when I write, read, perform, stand in a heavenly dignity demanding a higher calling. Let’s not forget to love and touch in all our getting and giving- let’s not forget to love, and touch.
4. Share the influence Angelou has had on American literature.
I don’t know that Maya’s writing has / had so much influence on American literature as much as her writing has beckoned us all, to remember our humanity and the unarguably astounding nature of each other and our being- in our voice.
Of course it is true… it is evident that African American women found definition and voice in Phenomenal Woman. The courage of voice given to and displayed, found in the disclosing of a too often dark silence in A Kind of Love, Some Say where a woman’s ribs and bones must finally be made to know the indelible impact of sadistic hate and a reason to rise and fly. In Still I Rise, defiant and sure- determined and settled- dignity takes its rightful place in our consciousness no matter what, who or how. In Caged Bird there is no reference made to gender, economic condition, culture, race, or religion, but to the caging hesitation of imposed limits. Resolute, a song of freedom rises from the one thing that cannot be quieted, held under foot, or restrained even by death- VOICE.
Finally, honoring the legacy of… ourselves.
The Late Honorable Dr. Maya Angelou, Marguerite Annie Johnson, gave up her voice thinking her voice had caused and could cause death. Her grandmother pronounced that “she, sister, would speak when she was ready”. But, a Mrs. Flowers who loved the little girl she was, just as she was, encouraged and presented a view of unlimited possibilities giving her books to read, A Tale of Two Cities and some poetry, re-ignited her fire and imagination and- her voice.
Fire will rage in each of us until our voice can somehow be heard. Her influence on American Literature, you ask ? To make more of it, to let- to allow our voice to be heard.
VOICE, what say you ? Say. Sing. Write. Draw. Be. Love. Touch… Write.
she is by all definitions, a Poet. Inspired and refined by the phenomenal influence and interaction with The World Stage Anansi Writers’ Workshop of Leimert Park Village, 5th Street Dick’s, and Vibrations Still Waters Writers’ Workshop and anywhere else good solid grounded poetry is perpetuated, encouraged, performed, and read. A recognized name in the Poetry Community since 1998, this woman’s experience is laid down in prolific word, sometimes combined with song, touching all who are in attendance no matter where she “preaches”.
She has published numerous intimate chapbook-style pieces, produced the live anthology ‘Angels in the Village’ with three other definitive poets (V. Kali, Sequoia Mercier, and Alice the Poet Nicholas) co-published the coordinating printed anthology archived at Beyond Baroque Literary Foundation in Venice, Ca., published by Peter J. Harris in his ‘The Drumming Between Us’, performed a one hour solo show on KPFK radio ‘From this Poet’s View’ with host Angalifu, performed in the Los Angeles Poetry Festival, at the Jazz Bakery, the Watts Towers Arts Center, on KGFJ’s ‘Speakeasy’, designed and conducted ‘Poetry Therapy’ workshops at King-Drew University’s Place of Family with mentor Fa. Anthony ‘Amde’ Hamilton of the Watts Prophets, and performed at the Annual Malcolm X Festivals, and many, many other private and public gatherings.
She sits one-on-one with others who have been “stirred” by this call and encourages them to write ‘real’ poetry in the free-verse form and in the voice that is authentic to their individual artistry.
Reverdia calls her work, and her recently published collection of poetry [see Lulu.com/reverdia]
“The Journey of a Woman’s Heart”®. If you find yourself ‘stunned’, it will be well worth the time you engage your heart, mind, spirit, and soul. Her most prized award to date, is the Watts Writers Workshop Legends Award presented at Vibrations’ Still Waters Legends event in 2012, for her impact on the poetry community with The Watts Prophets (Amde Hamilton, Otis O’Solomon, and the now late Richard Dedeaux), Umar Bin Hassan of The Last Poets, and Ras Poet Ojenke in attendance !
They call her, the ‘Storyteller Poet’… “The RiverWoman… She is mother, GahMatah, friend, sister, auntie, prophet, Shaman, humble, holy. She has a story to tell. Enjoy and be inspired. And, may God’s blessings keep you safe, sound, warm, and creating.