An ode and a bow down to a Phenomenal Woman

An ode and a bow down to a Phenomenal Woman

I have been a Maya Angelou fan as far back as I can remember. That is usually about 12 seconds back, but this time, I’m talking years. I went through a very introspective time in my life when I was in my early twenties, and I would read every GOOD philosophical, inspirational, biographical or self-help book there was. Did I emphasize the word GOOD enough?  Because for me, a book most certainly has to be considerably above average for me to even give it a passing thought. Oh! And if it was a poetic book, involved poetry in any way, or was a comedic biographical/inspirational/self-help philosophical book about a poet, SIGN ME UP. I loved Og Mandino, Iyanla Vanzant, learned about Sylvia Plath, Langston Hughes, and I started reading, and could not get enough of Maya. When I think about her, I get a little heart fluttery, and my head does this weird sideways thing, accompanied by a half grin, and suddenly I’m just looking stupid and slamming into the wall in front of me that I didn’t see.

maya7When I read Maya’s first book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” I was hooked. There was something so different about this author/mother/survivor/human rights advocate. I identified with her immediately. It wasn’t her harsh and painstakingly cruel background, her becoming a mother very early in life, nor her struggle in her career, and thus her ultimate success. Her road was fractured and dented and at times, was downright heart wrenching. She endured things that nobody should. I adored her way of expressing her tumultuous life experiences. She used her beautiful voice to illustrate her journey. The way she rose from the ashes was enough for me to be enamored with, but it was her voice, the way she told her stories. She was humorous and humble and I loved her. She dealt with crap that nobody that I’ve ever met has ever come close to: Racism, abuse, and self-loathing, just to name a few. So, I was quickly on to the next book, and you know, these were the days before you could order stuff on, or Ebay, so I would have to actually climb aboard my gas guzzling Isuzu I-mark (THE HORROR) to run up to the bookstore. That was IF I had the gas $ to get there, but that’s a whole different and whole other frightful blog post. (Coming soon!)

mayaquote4I was obsessed with Maya’s unique viewpoints, and ultimately, her quiet confidence. That is something that I have certainly always lacked. Unlike me, she was able to use words as her armour, and eventually for her healing. Her words were powerful, and they came in the form of not only books, but poetry, (“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” “But Still I Rise,” and “Phenomenal Woman,” are just 3 popular ones) assisting in the Civil Rights movements (helping Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) and her infamous speeches. I desperately admired someone who had such an astounding way with words. I know I didn’t.


After reading all of her books, poetry and following her career and chalking myself up to being a lifelong fan, I realized exactly what I wanted to do. I knew right then that I wanted to use my voice, (not my actual stupid sounding, sometimes manly and always very shaky voice) but maybe one day my intense love for words could hopefully…and maybe…just maybe … day, possibly if I ask nicely, they could, I don’t know, help me become a writer. Whew, that was exhausting. I still didn’t have the confidence thing worked out. Baby steps! But first, I’ll have to go jump in the ole’ I-Mark and rush to the University to change my major. Again.

Of course, there are many, many more famous quotes than the ones I’ve mentioned above from Maya.  A few more great ones:

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it,”


“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.”


“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”


I just read an article that the “Westboro Baptist Church” is going to protest her funeral.  I’m sure she will, because I know I am going to, take that as a great, big festive compliment. Hey, Westboro Church, I think Dr. Maya Angelou created a quote about you, way before she really even knew it was about you.

“The problem I have with haters is that they see my glory, but they don’t know my story…”

I, personally, would have added just a touch more to that quote, but I am crass, inappropriate and quite immature.  To end the homage to my sweet Maya, I’d like to leave you with my favorite poem of hers.

Phenomenal Woman
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
the span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet,
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
The palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
– Maya Angelou

And that, in a nutshell, sums up why I do, and always will adore you, Maya. Rest in Peace. You freaking rock.



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