Monday, March 17, 2008

Maya Angelou

Teagan Lynn Comment: I found The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou in a used bookstore called The Book Cellar. On the inside cover were brief messages from Gloria, Amy, and Jessica wishing Kimberly a happy 20th birthday. And then Jennifer wrote the message, "Be friendly to strangers for in the midst one can be an angel. Happy 20th." I imagine the four women as coworkers or roommates, not close friends, but close enough to feel the obligation to celebrate birthdays. Jennifer, the hopeless romantic, purchases the book because it inspired her and she has these high hopes that it will change young Kimberly's life. The other women sign, not really caring. Kimberly receives the book with thanks, smiles, gives each woman a hug, then shelves the book, never cracking the cover. A few years down the road, the book winds up at a used book store in exchange for a little cash. Kimberly goes on her way, the incident quickly forgotten. Kimberly, Angelou had so much more to offer you.

I for one loved the book. Of course, "Caged Bird" is part of the collection and is well worth a read, particularly the refrain. Also noteworthy: "Just for a Time," "A Conceit," "Wonder," "How I Can Lie to You," "Insomniac," "Passing Time," and the last stanza of "They Ask Why." But the one that oddly struck me the most was "The New House."

The New House

Maya Angelou

What words
have smashed against
these walls,
crashed up and down these
lain mute and then drained
their meanings out and into
these floors?

What feelings, long since
streamed vague yearnings
below this ceiling
In some dimension,
which I cannot know,
the shadows of
another still exist. I bring my
memories, held too long in check,
to let them here shoulder
space and place to be.

And when I leave to
find another house,
I wonder what among
these shades will be
left of me.

Angelou, Maya. "The New House." The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou. New York: Random House, 2002.

Any interesting used bookstore stories to share?

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