Maya Angelou passed away today. I wanted to post some great poem of hers, but as I read them, I realized–and this is going to be sooo unpopular–I don’t really like reading her poetry. Now, if I can hear HER read her poetry, that’s a totally different story. Listening to Maya Angelou, even just hearing her speak, touches chords in my heart, makes me sit up and pay attention. There’s something about the cadence and timbre of her voice, the emotion in her words…… Hearing her recite her poetry gives me goose flesh, and depending on the subject, brings me to tears. If you have the opportunity to see a video of Dr. Angelou reciting the following poem, do it. Just reading it doesn’t do it justice. But here it is. This is “Amazing Peace” by Dr. Maya Angelou:
Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.
Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.
We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?
Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.
It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.
Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.
In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.
We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.
We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.
It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.
On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.
At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.
We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.”
In thinking about the power of Dr. Angelou’s words over the decades, I question: What is it about poetry that touches hearts and minds so deeply, and so easily?
I believe poetry at its heart is an exchange of emotions between the poet and the reader. When I write a poem, I distill my emotions onto the page. I may use rhyme, meter, or various effects to convey my feelings, but that is the goal. When you read my poem, you see and feel my words through the windows of your own eyes, your own experiences, your own psychic filters (not in a metaphysical sense, just the perception of your mind). Your imagination makes its own connection, a connection made all the more powerful because it is tied to YOUR emotions.
What is your favorite poem? Do you like traditional rhyming poems, or do you prefer free-form?