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Maya Angelou: Poet for the Ages

Updated on May 28, 2014
Maya Angelou was invited to read her poetry at Bill Clinton's Presidential inauguration
Maya Angelou was invited to read her poetry at Bill Clinton's Presidential inauguration | Source

A Survivor

Born as Marguerite Ann Johnson in 1928, Maya Angelou lived through the worst of the great depression in the south. She was raped as a small child; yet she survived. She did not let that become what defined her.

She rose above everything, and lived a very full life, and learned humility, tolerance, respect and love.

She was an activist for peace, by peaceful means. She was a woman for the ages.

Many Famous Friends

She counted among her friends such illustrious, famous and diverse names as Malcom X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Oprah Winfrey.

She wrote verse for Roberta Flak, and spoke by invitation at many public events, including two presidential inaguruations: Bill Clinton's and Barack Obama's.

A Multi-Starred Career

Angelou became famous for her poetry, and in particular, her work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, published in 1969. That was her springboard to international fame.

However, many do not know that she was also a singer, dancer and actress. She traveled and performed with many different groups over the years.

But her best role, the role she was best known for was as a teacher. While she never went to college, she earned many honorary degrees, and in her later years was respected and referred to as Dr. Maya Angelou.

Perhaps her greatest honor was being bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2011.

The End of an Era

With her death on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, the world has lost another voice for peace; another of the greats who inspire us to be better people.

Dr. Angelou will be missed both by those who knew her personally, especially her family, but also by the world community. Her name and fame spread far and wide; she ranked among the peacemakers of the world: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and even Mother Theresa.

Her memory and works will be best honored by emulating her example; manifesting gentleness and a calm demeanor and finding a peaceful and honorable way to work out differences. Differences, after all, should be on the level of cultural exchange, and not cause for wars.

My Salute

Ring the bells of peace; ring the bells of sleep; ring the sad bell of mourning.

Woe the day, we lose a friend; woe the day we lose a gentle soul.

Sing out, sing out, let loud voices proclaim

Today we lost a soul; today we sob in sorrow.

Then ring the bells, ring the bells, ring the bells of morning

For the morrow brings fresh light; the morrow starts anew.

To honor the memory; we must act with honor

Tribute paid not in tears but in our actions.

Those who have left us have not,

For they live on in our memories,

In our every thought of them; in their every word we recall

Ring the bells, ring the school bells, ring the bells of knowledge and peace.

Poem © Liz Elias 5-28-14

© 2014 Liz Elias


Submit a Comment
  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, DDE,

    Yes, she was an amazing woman. I wish I could have met her; I'm sure I could have learned much.

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 

    5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    I admire anyone with such great efforts and so much to have learned from this individual.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, stuff4kids,

    Thank you so much for your comment; I know what you mean. I'm delighted you so enjoyed this tribute to a great lady.

  • stuff4kids profile image

    Amanda Littlejohn 

    5 years ago

    Maya Angelou remains one of my great heroes. 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' is one of those books that is a real life changer, reading it becomes one of the significant life events and things are never quite the same again.

    Thanks for such a beautiful and creative tribute.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Sed-me,

    Yes, that she did. A commanding presence, you might say. Very gifted, and used those gifts in a most marvelous way. Thanks so much for stopping by and adding your thoughts.

  • Sed-me profile image

    Elisabeth Ellis 

    5 years ago from Nashville, TN.

    She had such presence. Such a strong woman and so gifted.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, James-wolve,

    Thank you very much; I'm delighted you liked my tribute. She was indeed a great poet, and a very positive influence.

  • James-wolve profile image

    Tijani Achamlal 

    5 years ago from Morocco

    Beautiful tribute to a great poet.She is one of my favorites.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Danext,

    Thank you so much for stopping by. She certainly did have a way with putting things into clear perspective with her words. She will be sadly missed.

  • Danext profile image

    Dan Lema 

    5 years ago from Tanzania

    I loved Maya a lot, the day i heard the news, i was sad for two days....very heartbreaking....

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, Ann1Az2;

    What a perfect way to describe her, "...a rebel and a peacemaker..." Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing that thought.

    I'm glad you enjoyed my poetic tribute.

  • Ann1Az2 profile image


    5 years ago from Orange, Texas

    I truly love your poem and it is a fine tribute to a woman who was a rebel and a peacemaker at the same time.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Gypsy Rose Lee,

    Thank you very much for the votes and share. I'm delighted that you liked my offering of remembrance.

  • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

    Gypsy Rose Lee 

    5 years ago from Daytona Beach, Florida

    Voted up and awesome. A truly touching and wonderful tribute to an inspirational woman. Passing this on.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    @ The Stages ofME--Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m sure Maya inspired my poem herself; it nearly wrote itself without much help from me. ;-) I am please you liked my tribute.

    @ grand old lady--I am so flattered by everyone’s wonderful comments; it amazes me that my simple offerings manage to touch people. Thank you so very much!

    @ daborn7--Thank you very much for stopping by and adding your thoughts. She will indeed by sorely missed.

    @ chef-de-jour--Yes, her legacy will live one; I wish and hope that humanity will one day take to heart and act upon the voices pleading for peace, love and tolerance, instead of merely parroting the sentiments and behaving in opposite mien. Thank you so much for your compliment.

    @epbooks--She was, indeed, a brave and inspiring soul. I only wish I could have met her in person. Thank you for stopping by.

    @ FlourishAnyway--Ah, yes; what a lovely way to phrase her new calling. I thank you so much for your lovely comment, and am pleased that you liked my brief … eulogy, if you will … ;-)

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    5 years ago from USA

    I enjoyed your tribute to this marvelous woman. She sings with the angels.

  • epbooks profile image

    Elizabeth Parker 

    5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

    She sounds like a wonderful woman and didn't let anything stop her. What a lovely tribute!

  • chef-de-jour profile image

    Andrew Spacey 

    5 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    Such a strong spirit, such courage to keep on rising.

    Thank you for sharing your poem, a heartfelt tribute to a very brave and talented person.

    Maya Angelou's legacy shines on.

  • daborn7 profile image


    5 years ago from California

    Very well put together. It is sad to see such a good hearted person go. She will definitely be missed.Thanks for taking the time to honor her.

  • grand old lady profile image

    Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

    5 years ago from Philippines

    I love the poem you wrote for Maya Angelou. It was very simple, yet penetrating to the heart.

  • The Stages Of ME profile image

    Kathy Henderson 

    5 years ago from Pa

    Beautiful tribute to an amazing woman and poet. Your poem was so beautiful as well, and I am sure there is a face smiling down at you as this is being read. Blessings

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, janshares,

    I'm so pleased that you liked my tribute and poem. Thank you so very much for stopping by and for the votes!

  • janshares profile image

    Janis Leslie Evans 

    5 years ago from Washington, DC

    Lovely tribute, MsLizzy, to a lovely lady. I love your poem. It sings praises loudly for Maya Angelou who deserves nothing less than bells ringing and voices raised in her honor. Excellent, voted up and beautiful.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Kevin,

    Thank you so very much. I'm delighted that I was able to provide a fitting tribute that so many seem to have enjoyed. Thanks also for the votes, shares and pin!

  • The Examiner-1 profile image

    The Examiner-1 

    5 years ago

    DzyMsLizzy, this was warm and heartfelt. I cannot find words to describe it. I voted it up shared and pinned it.


  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    @ vocalcoach--Thank you so much for your kind words. I was so sad to learn this news; she will indeed be missed worldwide. Many thanks for the votes and share.

    @ MsDora--Yes, we still have our words; for that, I am grateful to live in an age where things can be written down and stored for posterity, instead of reliance upon sometimes faulty memory. Thank you for your comment; I’m glad you liked my tribute.

    @ tillsontitan--Thank you so much for the votes and share! I’m delighted you liked the poem; it was one of those that rather ‘came to me’ as I wrote.

    @ moiponetsoka--Yes, it was a very sad day, and she will be missed by the world at large. Thank you for stopping by.

    @ Learn Things Web--Thank you so much for your comment. The line that sticks with me from “…Caged Bird…” is: “…and so he lifts his head and sings.” That one line so fits her spirit; she was indeed amazing!

  • Learn Things Web profile image

    J Jahan 

    5 years ago from California

    I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings years ago and it's a sad and inspiring book. She was an amazing person.

  • moiponetsoka profile image


    5 years ago from South Africa

    sad news indeed, she will be sorely missed.

  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 

    5 years ago from New York

    I voted all but funny Lizzy. This was an amazing tribute. Your information about Maya was interesting and well done and your poem was superb! How Maya must be smiling at this wonderful piece. I shared this too!

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    5 years ago from The Caribbean

    Beautiful tribute to Maya Angelou. "Poet for the Ages" is a very fitting tribute to her. We will miss her voice, but we still have her words.

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 

    5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

    Dzymslizzy - This is a beautiful tribute to Maya Angelou She will live in our hearts along with her words. I feel blessed that this woman lived in my lifetime. She will be missed the world over. Thank you for this, voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and will share.


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