I don’t think it’s any secret that Maya Angelou (1928 – present) is ranked among the most influential and inspirational women writers. Not only has she published seven autobiographies, five books of essays, and several books of poetry; she also overcame childhood trauma and channeled her experiences into her written work.
Her parents had a dysfunctional marriage and divorced when she was three. When she was eight, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, who was imprisoned for only one day and later found dead, most likely murdered by one of Angelou’s uncles. Following his death, Angelou did not speak for five years. During the time she retreated into books and developed her writing skills.
Years later she would credit her teacher, Bertha Flowers, for helping her speak again, and introducing her to fine literature and African-American artists. Angelou would go on to study dance and drama, and danced professionally at clubs in San Francisco for a number of years.
Eventually she became involved in the Civil Rights Movement and worked as a journalist in Egypt and Ghana. She’s taught at Wake Forest University in North Carolina since 1982 and has made a name for herself as a public speaker, giving about eighty public lectures a year since the 1990s.
Maya Angelou is among the major examples of people overcoming abuse and social disadvantages to become a symbol of strength, courage, and resilience. Because I’d like this blog to be an open forum, I’ve decided to give readers the opportunity to contribute to a collaborative poem, inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.” Here’s an excerpt:
“Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
In the comments section, fill in the blanks and I’ll put everyone’s lines together into one poem. The lines you provide can be long or short, one word or twenty. I look forward to hearing from you guys!
“Out of ______________
Up from _____________
Leaving behind ___________
– Särah Nour