America Mourns Its 'Fierce' Poet

Luminaries lines up to pay homage to Maya Angelou
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2014 1:58 PM CDT

Writer, inaugural poet, storyteller, mentor, civil rights activist, Grammy winner, journalist, streetcar conductor, and even madam—Maya Angelou wore a vast rainbow of hats during her 86 years, and Americans wasted no time today in paying homage to the fiercely eloquent force of nature. Without ado:

  • President Obama: Citing "a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman," Obama noted that his own sister is named for the poet, who "above all, was a storyteller—and her greatest stories were true. The voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves."

  • President Clinton: "America has lost a national treasure; and Hillary and I, a beloved friend. I will always be grateful. The poems and stories she wrote and read to us in her commanding voice were gifts of wisdom and wit, courage and grace."
  • Oprah Winfrey: "I've been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister, and friend since my twenties. She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. 'When you learn, teach. When you get, give,' is one of my best lessons from her. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds."
  • Over at Slate, Dee Lockett reminds us that "Angelou’s talents extended well beyond the written and spoken word." In the '50s, Angelou was an aspiring singer and dancer who eventually recorded an album, Miss Calypso, which in turn inspired her first film, Calypso Heat Wave.
  • At Salon, Laura Miller lauds Angelou as "the voice of America," a poet who even had a line of Hallmark cards for which she was mocked, "but the public adored her and found in her words both wisdom and comfort. Angelou’s is a style that lends itself well to the realm of social media, with its informal habit of sharing and passing along quotations and mottos."
(More Maya Angelou stories.)

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