“We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the ocans – because we can. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings. That’s why we paint, that’s why we dare to love someone, that’s why we write – because we have the impulse to explain who we are.” – Maya Angelou
Author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer, Maya Angelou, born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Mo., published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry. She wrote a long list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning 50 years and received dozens of awards and some 50 honorary degrees. In 1968, her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, written at the urging of writer James Baldwin and cartoonist Jules Feiffer brought her worldwide attention and started her pathway to success.
While much acclaim came to her for her essays, she also wrote many, many poems that drew attention when she herself performed them at the dozens of public readings and talks she gave annually. It was my good fortune to hear her on several and at one held on the campus of Augsburg College I asked her if she wrote her poems first for herself and then to share, or the other way around.
“I would be a liar, a hypocrite, or a fool – and I’m not any of those – to say that I don’t write for the reader,” she said. “I do. But I write for the reader who hears, who really will work at it, going behind what I seem to say. So I write for myself and that reader who will pay his or her dues.”
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