Influences: Maya Angelou and Her Poetry in "Poetic Justice"

Maya Angelou’s poetry didn’t hit me immediately when my mother and I went to see John Singleton’s Poetic Justice during the summer of 1993.  It would be one year later (after seeing the film several times on cable) when Angelou’s poetry moved me in ways that were like revelations.  I was 12 then.  At that point, I was writing song lyrics mostly.  Hadn’t given much thought to writing poetry.  But there was something about Angelou’s poetry (in particular the poems featured in Poetic Justice — “Alone,” “Phenomenal Woman,” and “In A Time” to name a few) that spoke to me and gave me an even deeper appreciation for the world of arts and letters.  Shortly thereafter, I used my allowance to get a paperback copy of Maya Angelou’s Poems.  I committed myself to reading it (and occasionally reciting and memorizing selected poems from it) everyday for months.

Angleou’s poetry speaks about the human condition in a language that is universal.  Her work often has a consciousness that is (always) socially, politically, culturally, and historically relevant.  The sincerity and candor of her words continue to draw me in.  The lighthearted, comedic tone of poems like “Seven Women’s Blessed Assurance” (from I Shall Not Be Moved) consumed me with laughter and delight.  With poems like “Still I Rise,” “Amazing Peace,” “On The Pulse of Morning,” “Human Family,”  “Mother – A Cradle To Hold Me,” and “Our Grandmothers,” Angelou has left me with a hefty sense of pride and a better understanding, love, and respect for the human race and our shared experiences.

To say that Maya Angelou’s work has been a source of inspiration and influence would be an understatement.  Angelou’s writing (along with a few others) fueled my fascination with the human condition and my desire to write about it in a unique yet relatable (and at times, unconventional) way.  While it was never my desire to write like or copy Angelou, if my writing can (one day) have the slightest feeling, impact, and influence of her writing—that would truly be amazing.

Check out the following snippets from Poetic Justice featuring Angelou’s “Alone” and “Phenomenal Woman” (as voiced by the character Justice, played by Janet Jackson).

Day 91: Happy Birthday Michael Joseph Jackson

Image courtesy of the Eurweb site.

Today would’ve been icon Michael Joseph Jackson’s 54th birthday.  It’s been over 3 years since his untimely passing.  His presence and influence are just as strong now as they were before.  Jackson was a supremely talented being that blazed trails and inspired generations of fans and stars alike.  With each release, he delved deeper and deeper into himself.  He bared his soul, opened his heart, and provided us with what many would consider the soundtrack of our lives.  His albums went beyond music and entertainment.  They were events—monumental, genre-bending, shape-shifting events.  I don’t know how many fits I had in the record store as a child because I wanted latest Michael Jackson album.  

Aside from Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Prince, and Jody Watley, his music shaped much of my childhood and young adulthood and love of the arts.  Jackson’s (along with the aforementioned artists) videos changed the game, revolutionizing the visual presentation of musical artists (with everything from fashion, style, choreography, overall stage presence, special effects, and cinematography to name a few).  I, like many I’m sure, would break my neck to see Jackson’s music videos.  Glued to the screen, I was totally in awe of the sheer talent, artistry, and ingeniousness of it all.  Still to this day, I can’t help but be pulled in completely whenever one of his videos comes on TV or one of his songs is played on the radio.  The feeling, the soul, the spirit just goes right through you.  

Jackson gave so much of himself to us through his art and philanthropic efforts.  It’s unfortunate that he had to go out the way he did.  But he was called home.  He fulfilled his destiny.  But the legacy he left behind will be cherished for decades to come. 

So today, let’s celebrate the icon that Michael Joseph Jackson was/is.  The King lives on!!!

Also check out, Day 1: MJ’s This Is It and Day 58: In Remembrance – MJJ (Repost).