A tribute to literary titan Maya Angelou


U.S. author and poet Maya Angelou died yesterday at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C., according to a statement from her son, Guy Johnson.

On today's show, Jian's pays tribute to Angelou in his opening essay.

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He also revisits his warm and wide-ranging interview with the poet, author and activist. The two spoke in 2011, shortly after Angelou was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the highest civilian honor in the U.S.

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Hear their full conversation by clicking here or on the listen button above. Continue on to read standout quotations from the interview.

Quotes from Jian's 2011 interview with Maya Angelou

Angelou brought her inimitable wit and a wealth of insight to her interview with Jian. Here are just a few highlights from their conversation.


"I'm very, very serious -- I'm serious enough not to take myself too seriously. That means I can be completely wedded to the moment. But when I leave that moment, I want to be completely wedded to the next moment."

"When I'm writing poetry, that's the world to me."

"Human beings love poetry. They don't even know it sometimes ... whether they're the songs of Bono, or the songs of Justin Bieber ... they're listening to poetry."

"Whether spirituals, or Blues, or European classics, it all belongs to the human being, and it's supposed to lift us up -- and help us, as my grandmother used to say, 'keep starch in our backbone'. Keep us erect and standing proud, and proudly."

"She said, 'do you want the job'? Then go and get it." (Quoting her mother, who pushed her to fight prejudice to being a "conductorette" in her youth)

"I think it's dangerous to deny home. I think it's dangerous to romanticize it as well."

"One of the difficulties with absorbing what is said of one is that you have to live up to it."

"If I believe I'm all that, and I know I'm a child of God. Then I have to believe that everyone is all that. So I have to look at the brute, the bigot, the batterer and know that he, and she, are children of God."

"It is said some put people on  pedestals so they can see them more clearly and they can knock them off more easily. I don't consider that."

"I know I'm doing my best most of the time, and when I am not, I forgive myself."

"I refuse to allow any man-made differences to separate me from any other human beings."

"If you want what you're saying heard, then take your time and say it so that the listener will actually hear it. You might save somebody's life. Your own, first."

Do you have a favourite Maya Angelou quote? How will you remember the legendary writer?

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