“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, Angelou, who was born in St. Louis, MO, on this date in 1928, published 7 autobiographies, 3 books of essays, many books of poetry, and a long list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning 50 years. Over that time she was honored with dozens of awards and some 50 honorary degrees.
While much acclaim came to her for her essays and biographies – especially her 1968 title I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – it was her poetry that drew the most attention, especially when she herself performed them at the dozens of public readings and talks she did each year. It was my good fortune to hear her on several occasions, and at one held on the campus of Augsburg College I met with and 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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