April is National Poetry Month, which I’ll be celebrating on the blog throughout this month. I will be completely honest – while I have studied poetry, it is not something I write. Even so, in celebration of this month, I’d like to share my two favorite poets.
Considered to be one of the most consequential figures of the 20th century, Maya Angelou had a diverse career spanning five decades — first as a singer and dancer, then as a journalist and civil rights activist, and later as an author, poet, screenwriter, and film director.
Her incredible life journey included becoming the first African-American and female poet to participate in the recitation of a poem, “On The Pulse of Morning” for President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. Angelou was known for her 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which made literary history as the first nonfiction best seller by an African-American woman. Angelou received several honors throughout her career, including two NAACP Image Awards in the outstanding literary work (nonfiction) category, in 2005 and 2009.
I also love the poetry of Emily Dickinson, whose work I studied in graduate school. Dickinson was quite reclusive and, like many women authors/poets living in her era, she was not publicly recognized during her lifetime. The speakers in Dickinson’s poetry, like those in Emily Brontë’s and Elizabeth Browning’s works, are sharp-sighted observers who see the inescapable limitations of their societies as well as their imaginable escapes.