Maya_AngelouMaya Angelou burst onto the Lycoming College stage dancing! It was the mid-eighties, and I was attending the writer’s conference with my then-husband.  The series included Marge Piercy, Judith Viorst, Alice Walker, and, of course, Maya Angelou. Even in the mid-eighties these were well-known writers, and my excitement at seeing them in person—for FREE!—knew no bounds.

Maya was the most memorable speaker, not only because she was stately, with a wonderful voice, but because she danced up to the podium instead of walking. On her website, mayaangelou.com, we can read that dancing was a very important part of her early life. I had already read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, about her sexual abuse and her refusal to speak for years. But the Maya on stage was a jovial, fun-loving Maya. She recited for us the snappy “Health-Food Diner.” Here’s one stanza:

Loins of pork and chicken thighs
And standing rib, so prime,
Pork chops brown and fresh ground round
(I crave them all the time).

My husband I were sitting in the front seat, and we roared.  At the end of the recitation, she pointed to us and said, “I bet you’re vegetarians.” We nodded “yes” and laughed again.

The whole poem is delicious. You can read it here.  (You’ll also find it in her book Great Food, All Day Long.) 

Maya’s website calls her a Global Renaissance Woman, and her biography on the site testifies to that. She is a poet, novelist, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer, director . . . and dancer!

This poem is iconoclastic, according to twenty-first-century “wisdom” about nutrition. (Consider these lines: Uncooked kale and bodies frail/Are sure to make me run.) I’ve had this poem in my files since the mid-eighties. I found it in late January, and I do not think this was a coincidence. I found it just in time for Black History Month.

 

  • Korey Alligood November 15, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    I saw Maya Angelou when she came to my university. That is a day I will never forget!

    Reply
  • Coll Hunley February 24, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    ES – I too was enthralled to see Maya Angelou (3X) in Nebraska, receiving her signature on a book and a big hug at UNL. I have magnificent photos of her. Later at Creighton University where she sensuously “performed” her poem “Phenomenal Woman”, which she is! Indeed she danced the poem. Once then I stood outside the Omaha Art Museum as she emerged in her furs into her limo, another image of a woman who has “made it” out of abject poverty and oppression. What a remarkable and phenomenal woman, not unlike yourself!
    Coll

    Reply
  • hillsmom February 24, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    She is a truly remarkable woman. How wonderful to have seen all those ladies together. Thanks for the links, too. (Now I feel a need for a lovely rare steak!)

    Reply

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