Thursday, May 29, 2014

"A Great Human Library Has Burned to the Ground"

Kentucky writers on the death of Maya Angelou:

"There is no way an obituary can say poet and stop there," said Frank X Walker, Kentucky Poet Laureate and winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry. "Poet is much too small a word."

Angelou took risks by unveiling so much of her past, a life filled with tragic events early on. After she was raped by her mother's boyfriend and he was later found dead, "I thought my voice had killed the man," Angelou said years later. "And I thought if I spoke, my voice might just go out and kill anybody, randomly, and I stopped speaking for six years."

That eloquent voice and poetic words of wisdom are now quite familiar. Both command respect.
"She could tell and sing a story in the same sweet dazzling breath," said Nikky Finney, 2011 National Book Award winning poet who taught at the University of Kentucky for 20 years before returning to her native South Carolina.

"It didn't matter who or what you were, when she walked in the room, even the silverware got quiet. She was a queen. She was majestic. She was our great humanitarian."
 Finney said she learned about survival, struggle and the resilience of the human heart from Angelou's example. "In this moment of stunning loss, it feels like a great human library has burned to the ground," Finney said.
She was a radical, as all artists should be.

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