The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou, The Complete Collected Poems, (New York: Random House), 1994.
I am not sure what I expected from Maya Angelou's poems. I had, on many occasions, heard and read some of her poems, but the sheer mass of poetry in this volume hit me in a deep way. Reading a poem or two a day, I dwelt in the book for more than a month and took a bit of a journey into a life and a culture that, though very different from my experience, was not unfamiliar. I felt the anger and rage of the sixties and seventies. I questioned with her the injustices of society. I was embraced by her warm, maternal spirit. I felt the temporary nature of a woman who was too often used and sometimes discarded.
Reading all of the poems together gave me the impression of a life that was much bigger than could be put into the span of an individual. Angelou writes not only of her own experiences, but the experiences of her people, the experiences of our nation. She writes bigger than a single individual.
And the surprise I didn't expect? The amount of pure joy and laughter in the book. I could taste the food. I could belly laugh at the jokes, I could see in the midst of incredible unearned suffering the deep joy of life worth living.
The book is a triumph to which I will return again and again.