Thursday, May 13, 2010

I Heard the Caged Bird Sing

Last week I had the honor and the privilege of seeing and hearing Maya Angelou. She spoke, sang, recited, and read at an event at Fairleigh Dickinson University sponsored by WUIP (click the link for photos and more). I've heard her poetry before, bought greeting cards with her thoughts on them, but never saw her in person. What an inspiring experience -- she made us laugh, made us cry, made us proud to be there. Ms. Angelou is 82 years old and still going strong. She told us about growing up, being sent with her brother to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Alabama, which truly shaped who she became. She told about chasing an airline pilot back to the plane's controls when he came to say hello shortly after take-off, which is one of the reasons she now travels by bus. Her first bus had belonged to Prince; Ms. Angelou said, "and it was all That . . . with lots of purple". Now she has her own luxury bus that brought her to NJ from her home in North Carolina. To read more about this "global renaissance woman", visit her web site.

Among the poems she recited, was one of my favorites, "Phenomenal Woman", enjoy!

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Maya Angelou