My Favourite Poets & Their Poems: Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou visits YCP! 2/4/13
Maya Angelou visits YCP! 2/4/13 (Photo credit: York College ISLGP)

I’m going to kick off this series of posts – where I share a little information about incredible poets and show off a few of my favourite poems of theirs – with my most favourite poet – Maya Angelou.

I was introduced to her in (1992) when a boyfriend’s father bought me one of her collections of poetry, for Christmas. It is still is one of the most treasured gifts I’ve even been given.

I went on to buy/read her complete autobiographical collection and fell in love with her power, grace, elegance, feisty fury, and an enviable command of language. She said things simply, played with images without completely losing my attention, and genuinely warmed my heart, touched my soul, dampened my eyes and fired me up to my core. Here’s a little information about her from various sources, followed by a few of her poems which touched me most. As I adore all of what she has written, it’s difficult to pick just a few favourites, and those I’ve here are by no means her ‘best’ according to a student of literature, but they do resonate with me – so there! 😛

Enjoy and please leave me a comment to tell me your favourite poets, or what you think of the incredible Maya.


Maya Angelou

Author/poet/activist/director/all round super-woman!

“Maya Angelou is an American author and poet. She has published seven autobiographies, five books of essays, and several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years.” (Wikipedia)

 Born: April 4, 1928 (age 85), St. Louis

SpousePaul du Feu (m. 1974–1981), Vusumzi Make (m. 1960–1963), Enistasious Tosh Angelos (m. 1951–1954)

“Dr Maya Angelou is a remarkable Renaissance woman who is hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature. As a poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director, she continues to travel the world, spreading her legendary wisdom. Within the rhythm of her poetry and elegance of her prose lies Angelou’s unique power to help readers of every orientation span the lines of race. Angelou captivates audiences through the vigour and sheer beauty of her words and lyrics.”  The Official Website:

A few of my favourites:



The crystal rags

Viscous tatters

Of a worn-through soul


Deep swan song

Blue farewell

Of a dying dream.


The day hangs heavy
loose and grey
when you’re away.

A crown of thorns
a shirt of hair
is what I wear.

No one knows
my lonely heart
when we’re apart.

Senses of Insecurity

I couldn’t tell fact from fiction
or if my dream was true,
The only sure prediction
in this whole world was you.
I’d touched your features inchly
heard love and dared the cost.
The scented spiel reeled me unreal
and found my senses lost.


Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
‘Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Phenomenal Woman

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.


When You Come To Me

When you come to me, unbidden,
Beckoning me
To long-ago rooms,
Where memories lie.

Offering me, as to a child, an attic,
Gatherings of days too few.
Baubles of stolen kisses.
Trinkets of borrowed loves.
Trunks of secret words,

She is perhaps most famous for this incredible poem:

Still I Rise

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.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?


Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

Cover of "And Still I Rise"
Cover of And Still I Rise

At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

What did you think of Maya? Who’s your favourite poet? Want to know more about this amazing woman?


3 thoughts on “My Favourite Poets & Their Poems: Maya Angelou

  1. Mine, too, Shah! What an outstanding woman,human being, image maker, chronicler of life.

    I am proud to say that I got to meet her in person years ago in a little bookstore in Berkeley, CA; saw her speak at a teachers’ conference; and have been to her university to “walk where Maya walked”.

    Thanks for your post. xoA


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