There are several famous poems by Maya Angelou. This beloved African-American poet has inspired women to overcome obstacles, children to read and people to recognize the contributions of people as diverse as Michael Jackson and Bill Clinton. Angelou has published poems for several decades, but there are a few from her impressive body of work that stand out.
Remembering Michael Jackson
The poem, "We Had Him," was written for Michael Jackson following his tragic death. Queen Latifah read it at Jackson's funeral service. The following are excerpts from this memorial poem:
Beloveds, now we know that we know nothing, now that our bright and shining star can slip away from our fingertips like a puff of summer wind.
Without notice, our dear love can escape our doting embrace. Sing our songs among the stars and walk our dances across the face of the moon."
Angelou's poem, "On the Pulse of Morning," was read at Bill Clinton's inauguration ceremony in 1993. It was the first time an African-American woman was asked to write a poem for a presidential inauguration, and the first time an African-American woman read a poem at an inauguration. This poem, an excerpt of which appears below, remains a favorite among Angelou's fans.
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
During her life, Angelou suffered at the hands of people close to her, but she also found strength within herself to pursue her dreams. Many of her poems deal with the challenges that face people, particularly women and minorities, as they travel through life.
"Phenomenal Woman" is a poem that inspires women to be proud of who they are and excel using their unique strengths. The poem begins with these words:
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size…
…It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step
"Still I Rise" is a poem expressing indignation and an assertive response to the history of slavery in the United States. This poem expresses the pride and success of modern-day African Americans.
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Angelou has opened doors and inspired generations of African-American writers, poets and performers with her brave and inspirational poetry. Those who only know her most popular works will find a rich selection of inspirational and thought-provoking poems by looking through the collections of work that she has published.