Engaging with this collection of poetry has reaffirmed my belief that feminism can be liberating for all. I bought it second hand and inside the cover written in black pen was the name and date of another woman, ‘Annette O’Reily 1988’. Both this mystery woman and Maya Angelou, are from a generation of women of whose experiences of feminism and women’s rights will be very different from my own, yet there is something very comforting about writing my own name underneath Annette’s.
Though it is exciting to watch recent videos of Emma Watson placing copies of Angelou’s work around the London Underground, I sought out this text to find a link between the fourth-wave feminism of today and the activism of Angelou’s time. I wanted to connect with the views of women from past generations regarding feminism, and those branches commonly underrepresented today. Particularly prevalent in this book is a form of feminism that accommodates women of colour, as expressed through art.
Maya Angelou lived an incredible life and experienced equally as incredible hardship. Many of her experiences – as illustrated through her poetry – I know I could never identify with purely because of the circumstances in which I was born. But the autobiographic nature of her poetry at times gives the most vivid insight into a life which many women today can relate to and compare with their own struggle. This book covers topics such as childhood, aging, and seeking inner strength, whilst simultaneously showcasing the poet’s experience of Black culture and activism.
The material in this text is welcoming and rarely too abstract or difficult. Messages are clear and poignant and at times vary from vastly empowering (see ‘Phenomenal Woman’) to suddenly sad as they linger on pressing themes of loss or abuse. Yet the main thing I take from this collection of poetry is not sadness. It is motivation, and a keen reminder that although our experiences may differ greatly, we must still come together under the umbrella of women’s rights and embrace our differences, so we can continue to educate, and liberate, each other.
Everyone should read this.