Maya Angelou… “Who?”

I’m usually careful not to assume that regular, non-acas will know the texts and jargon that I deal with at work on a regular basis. No-one needs to banter about interstitial spaces or the Symbolic over a meal (no invites for Homi and Slavoj to my place), and I’d much rather engage with everyday doings and pop.psych or pop.cult moments.

The other night, though, my sibs and I were talking about poetry.* More to the point, the sentiment that poetry is a dead form. There was a half-baked theory we were playing with about hip-hop/rap being the new poetic forms that appealed to the people. I was saying something about the effectiveness of poetry as a transformative element for issues like racial injustice or consciousness-raising, and used Maya Angelou as an example.

My sibs responded with: “Who?!”

I was a bit surprised, then realised it was probably my Women’s Studies 101 hind-brain in action. I tend to assume that most people have heard of the authors I’ve studied, but many of them – particularly when we were looking at black women’s texts – are from the US.

Just for the record, because her influence and writing have earned my admiration for many years: Here’s Maya Angelou.

From Angelou’s Wiki entry:

With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou was heralded as a new kind of memoirist, one of the first African American women who was able to publicly discuss her personal life. She became recognized and highly respected as a spokesperson for black people and women. Angelou’s work is often characterized as autobiographical fiction.[5]Angelou has, however, made a deliberate attempt through her work to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. Her books, centered on themes such as identity, family, and racism, are often used as set texts in schools and universities internationally.

* Just in case you think that we’re oh-so-fwah-fwah discussing the genre of poetry and its possible genealogies, let me assure you that our conversations are usually more concerned with kungfu and monster movies, where we’re getting our next yumcha fix, and catching up about The Amazing Race (our family even has a hand-turned, hand-drawn globe-trophy for the person who picks series winners…).


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