In Memoriam: Maya Angelou, Poet Extraordinaire

I Love the Look of Words

Popcorn leaps, popping from the floor

of a hot black skillet

and into my mouth. 

Black words leap from the white 

page. Rushing into my eyes. Sliding

into my brain which gobbles them

the way my tongue and teeth 

chomp the buttered popcorn.

When I have stopped reading, 

ideas from the words stay stuck

in my mind, like the sweet

smell of butter perfuming my

fingers long after the popcorn 

is finished.

I love the book and the look of words

the weight of ideas that popped into my mind

I love the tracks 

of new thinking in my mind.

— Maya Angelou

from Soul Looks Back in Wonder by Tom Feelings (1993)

Maya Angelou taught me that poetry can mend a broken heart or build a revolution. Poems capture our dreams, memories, and help us to sort our our thoughts and feelings. Reading and writing poetry challenges what we know about language and words. Poems are experiments to play, critique, change what is wrong, and build a better tomorrow. 

Although Maya Angelou is no longer with us, her words and poems are eternal. 


After reading her poems (or any poetry for that matter), here are some ideas to respond to reading poetry:

1. As you listen to the poem, make a list of the things that snap, crackle and pop in your ears . . . words, sounds rhythms, phrases.

2. Draw a picture. . . realistic or abstract. . . of whatever the poem is saying to you. Or use a series of visual signs or symbols.

3. Briefly describe a memory or a person the poem might evoke. 

4. Maybe the poem reminds you of songs, or the sounds of certain musical instruments. Describe those songs or sounds.

5. Does the poem remind you of something else you have read? Perhaps a short story? A letter from your Aunt Millie? 

6. Does the poem evoke a smell? Describe the smell.

7. What are your physical sensations as you hear the poem? Are you relaxed? Tense? Warm? Cold? Why?

8. Or just respond to the poem in any way you wish. 

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