Maya Angelou Sucks at Poetry

07/08/2009 11:23 AM |

50d6/1247066417-maya.jpgSo, about yesterday’s Michael Jackson memorial service: It was pretty tasteful, wasn’t it? Touching, even, that the majority of the celebrities who spoke or performed seemed to be there to pay respect like normal human beings rather than to bask in the spotlight of just another star-studded affair. There were exceptions, obviously, like Brooke Shields, who wasn’t so much disrespectful as she was, um, bad at speaking and not nearly as funny as she thought she was, or Corey Feldman, who… well, yeah.

But the day’s worst offender wasn’t even there in person. Queen Latifah read a poem by Maya Angelou, written specifically for the occasion, and it was embarrassing—full of juvenile truisms and overused devices. Like, whaaaaat?!?! It’s crazy how there’s a Birmingham in Alabama and another one in England. And whoa, Pittsburgh and Johannesburg, despite being thousands of miles apart, both physically and ideologically, end in the same syllable!

Full text, courtesy of MTV, is after the jump.

Beloveds, now we know that we know nothing, now that our bright and shining star can slip away from our fingertips like a puff of summer wind.

Without notice, our dear love can escape our doting embrace. Sing our songs among the stars and walk our dances across the face of the moon.

In the instant that Michael is gone, we know nothing. No clocks can tell time. No oceans can rush our tides with the abrupt absence of our treasure.

Though we are many, each of us is achingly alone, piercingly alone.

Only when we confess our confusion can we remember that he was a gift to us and we did have him.

He came to us from the creator, trailing creativity in abundance.

Despite the anguish, his life was sheathed in mother love, family love, and survived and did more than that.

He thrived with passion and compassion, humor and style. We had him whether we know who he was or did not know, he was ours and we were his.

We had him, beautiful, delighting our eyes.

His hat, aslant over his brow, and took a pose on his toes for all of us.

And we laughed and stomped our feet for him.

We were enchanted with his passion because he held nothing. He gave us all he had been given.

Today in Tokyo, beneath the Eiffel Tower, in Ghana’s Black Star Square.

In Johannesburg and Pittsburgh, in Birmingham, Alabama, and Birmingham, England

We are missing Michael.

But we do know we had him, and we are the world.

Oh, no you di-in’t, Maya Angelou. I know you did not do the “we are the world” thing at the end. Latifah put that shit in on her own, right?

11 Comment

  • You know what’s a good “shit, this dude died” poem? “In Memory of W.B. Yeats” by Auden. Read it here:…

  • This is insane!

    —Without notice, our dear love can escape our doting embrace. Sing our songs among the stars and walk our dances across the face of the moon.—

    Two things:

    First, what’s up with Michael Jackson and the moon? I mean, with him perched on a crescent moon (thanks Brooke) to this… is it all cause of the Moonwalk? Is it presumed he can actually walk on the moon? Are these people idiots (yes).

    Second, is there no sense of irony that Michael Jackson was clearly a victim and probable perpetrator of sexual abuse?? I mean all the embracing and hiding from embraces– this evokes the CREEPIEST part of who this freaker was. Can we get back the “He was an awesome dancer” and leave all the embracing behind. PLEASE!!!!!

  • Wow, this does suck. It’s so obviously not heartfelt that it’s tiring to even read. Which is why famous poets should not comment on famous musicians deaths…simply because they are famous poets.

  • Well, I don’t want to go saying it’s not heartfelt. That’s tricky. I’m just not terribly fond of it.

  • Generally, things that are heartfelt don’t come out so cliched. Or, at least, I would hope not. But I see what you’re saying–I wouldn’t know how she truly feels.

  • Maya Angelou has always sucked. Poetry is most god-awful and embarrasing. People only like her because they feel that everyone else does and they don’t want to be left out.

  • I agree that her poetry has always sucked. It makes Oprah fans feel good to like poetry. They don

  • The picture of her is so attractive, though.

  • She is a total no talent… kinda like an African American Bonnie Franklin!
    She also needs to lose about 45 lbs!


  • How can one say, as a black woman, who is to blame for these things?
    What? you ask as a white crowd strolling across the pretty suburban bridge.
    I, too, can just throw a bunch of words together to make a poem
    So that we all can feel good about reading the anti-prose of our culture.
    Ah, but alas, if I use poetic verbage I do become a poet
    In the eyes of stupidity.