What Inspired Maya Angelou To Write Poetry

Maya Angelou had a prolific career, but her roots began with writing poems. She often said that poetry was her first love. So, what inspired her to pour her heart and soul into this specific artistic outlet?

First, Maya Angelou was exposed to a rich and diverse culture growing up in St. Louis, which included both blues and gospel music, storytelling, and literature. The characters she imagined and the stories these characters told were the beginnings of the moral fabric that would support her poetry.

Second, Angelou was able to communicate her thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a way that few others could. Several of her poems were based on her own personal experiences and she used descriptive language to craft her stories in a creative, rhythmic way. As a result, reading her poetry was akin to hearing it.

Third, Angelou enjoyed using natural metaphors and allusions to give her poetry greater depth, emotion, and meaning. She often compared human emotions to nature; for example, “the sun’s warm embrace” or “the wind’s gentle caress”. Such language allowed her to express her feelings without being obvious or cliche.

Fourth, Angelou was captivated by the power of words. Her passionate and descriptive phrasing lent her poetry an emotional depth that was transformative to her audience. Her goal was to make her stories interesting and captivating to her readers, with the hope that her words would transfer an emotional truth to her audience.

Fifth, Angelou was deeply impacted by her mentors, both in her own life and throughout literature. Many of her poems were inspired by the example of legendary writers, particularly T.S. Eliot and Langston Hughes. She even wrote a few poems specifically about the importance of finding the right mentor and literary influence.

Finally, Maya Angelou felt a responsibility to her community and her heritage. Her poems often discussed the importance of social justice and civil rights, discussing themes of sorrow and persecution. As a member of the African-American community, she felt a personal responsibility to use her poetic platform to advocate for change. In her own words, “Poetry is a pain forgotten, an emotion almost intact.”

The Power of Expression

Maya Angelou’s use of expression was the most important factor in inspiring her to write poetry. Her vivid language and gripping metaphors made her poems incredibly vivid, engaging, and accessible. Through her words, Angelou was capable of conveying a greater truth than just her own experiences. Her words spoke to a greater community, painting a picture of hope, justice, and understanding.

Angelou often wrote as if she was the narrator of her own stories, weaving together descriptions and memories in a way that was both powerful and beautiful. This allowed her audience to access the emotional truth behind her work, and experience both her individual journey and the larger cultural narrative.

Angelou also relied heavily on figurative language to drive her point home. She often used metaphors, similes, and allusions to illustrate her ideas in a creative and meaningful way. Her words, which often referenced the divine, served to connect her audience to a greater spiritual journey.

Finally, Angelou’s melody and rhythm were integral parts of her expressive style. She “sang” her words, using the inflections of her voice to emphasize the emotional weight of her poetry. This unique vocal pattern would often drive the point home and leave her audience with a powerful impact.

Her Influences

Maya Angelou drew great influence from the people, literature, and music that surrounded her. Growing up in St. Louis, she was exposed to a diverse cultural backdrop, which included a variety of musical styles, storytelling techniques, and spiritual values. These diverse influences were the foundation of her poetic expression.

Throughout her life, Angelou also leaned on the teachings of several legendary writers. She found great wisdom in the works of T.S. Elliot, Langston Hughes, and W.E.B. Du Bois, all of whom had strong voices in the African American literary canon. Angelou was able to draw inspiration from these mentors and create a style that drew deeply on the experiences of her people.

In addition, Angelou was also inspired by the music of her time. She was a passionate blues enthusiast, often citing the genre as a great influence on her poetry. At the same time, gospel music served to reinforce the power of her spiritual journey. By combining her love of poetry and her passion for music, Angelou was able to create a form of self-expression that was both moving and transformative.

Finally, Angelou was deeply impacted by the struggles of the African American community. She saw the importance of using her platform to discuss issues of political and social injustice. This commitment to justice served as a driving force behind her work, and gave her the passion to create poems that spoke to a common mission.

Her Moral Code

In addition to being inspired by her experiences and her community, Maya Angelou was also guided by a strong moral code. Her faith and her upbringing served to inform her writing, crafting a style of poetry that was both personal and impactful.

Angelou was deeply spiritual, believing that writing was a form of worship. In her poem “I Shall Not Be Moved”, she wrote of her faith, her responsibility to hope, and her commitment to justice. Angelou wrote, “For I am not moved by the battle’s confusion, I shall rise with the healing of my mind”. This focus on spiritualism, as well as her commitment to justice, served to inform her artistic expression.

The notion of community was also woven into Angelou’s morality. She often wrote of her responsibility to her people, and her understanding that our experiences are connected. Angelou wrote “We each have our gift and our burden to bear, and together we shall overcome.” This message of unity served as a common theme in her work, and highlighted her social consciousness and moral commitment.

Angelou also believed in the power of forgiveness and understanding. She wrote, “Let our love grow from understanding to acceptance, from acceptance to appreciation.” Here, Angelou expressed her commitment to compassion, understanding, and relationship-building. This sentiment guided her writing, and created a sense of optimism for her readers.

Legacy of Empowerment

Maya Angelou was an incredibly powerful voice, and her work has had a lasting impact on the literary world. Her words spoke to a shared experience, and created a path to both understanding and appreciation. Her words were deeply rooted in her life, her faith, and her culture, creating an artistic style that was poetic, meaningful, and empowering.

Angelou’s writing has been incredibly influential, and her poems have been studied by scholars, appreciated by critics, and embraced by readers’ around the world. Her stories have been like “a pain forgotten, an emotion almost intact,” providing a message of comfort and perspective to her audience.

Angelou’s legacy is one of humility, goodness, and strength. Her words served to create a path of social justice and moral understanding. She used her poetic platform as a powerful tool of expression, crafting stories that have stood the test of time.

Her Passion for Poetry

Maya Angelou was passionate about poetry and the powerful emotion it could evoke. For her, poetry was a means of self-expression, of storytelling, and of reestablishing her faith and cultural identity. Through her words, Angelou was able to channel a feeling of understanding and turn her voice into a powerful tool of communication.

Angelou’s writing was often rooted in her own personal experience, creating a bridge between herself and her audience. While her poems may have taken place within her own life, they often resonated beyond her own personal boundaries, connecting her audience to themes of justice, courage, and faith.

Angelou’s life was also a reflection of her passion for poetry. She was an avid reader, of both literature and music, and an inspiring mentor to those who sought out her wisdom. Throughout her work, she drew from her own metaphors and symbols to craft an artistic style that combined a passionate, powerful voice with a moral compass that spoke to a greater social justice.

Ultimately, poetry was Angelou’s chosen form of expression, and she used her words to craft a message of courage, hope, and truth. Through her passionate and meaningful writing, Angelou was able to find both her voice and her place in the world.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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