Maya Angelou’s Powerful Debut


I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in high school, as many of my generation did, and was inspired by Angelou’s poetic prose. She spoke to me in a way that many other writers I read in high school did not. Maybe this was because she was poet and a prose writer, and I love that combination (tho I did not know that at the time). But I think it was something deeper. She wrote from her heart and although she was 40 years older than me, and I grew up a white woman in the Midwest, I felt close to her when I read her work. Her life felt real, in the way that the lives of other writers did not.

I didn’t realize until I read her obituary that I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was her debut. What a debut it was! She went on to publish a series of memoirs, but I have only read the first one. I now have more books to add to my list.

As I scour the Internet reading about her life and accomplishments I thought I would share a few links that stood out.

  •  This interview from the Paris Review, in 1990, gives a glimpse into her writer’s life and how she wrote Caged Bird.
  • USA Today did a nice round up of powerful Maya Angelou quotes. In reading them, I’m moved by her ability to accept life as it is, while simultaneously believing that we all have the power for great things, no matter where we come from or how much defeat we absorb. She was a mentor to Oprah, and in reading the quotes, I can see the influence. Thank you Maya Angelou for this one:

 “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Interview for Beautifully Said Magazine (2012)

  •  Did you know that Maya Angelou tweeted? Her final Tweet was: “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”

May you rest in peace. Your voice, and debut, will live with us forever.


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6 responses to “Maya Angelou’s Powerful Debut

  1. Joyce Carman

    I loved reading your tribute to Maya Angelou.


    Thank you for this Kate.
    I saw and heard Maya Angelou in Toronto about 15 years ago when she was one of the wonderful women who participated in the Unique Lives series. Everyone in the hall was mesmerized by her. She was such an inspiration to so many and she’ll be sorely missed.
    Hope you and your family are fine.
    Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

  3. Thank you Kate. As you know, I worked for many years in women’s health and Maya was our voice, our mentor, our heroine. Loved her ‘phenomenal woman’ poem, it was our banner for women’s groups. I am devouring every book, poem, and essay I can to celebrate Maya’ voice and her life.

  4. louise crawford

    Kate – A lovely tribute to a remarkable woman. I remember reading “Caged Bird when it first came out and am moved to read it again.

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