12 Inspiring Poems By Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Dr. Maya Angelou

She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years.

Google Celebrates Dr. Maya Angelou’s 90th Birthday with doodle on April 4, 2018.

She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees.

Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of 17 and brought her international recognition and acclaim.

Maya Angelou Poems:

1. And Still I Rise

Maya Angelou Poems

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you? 
Why are you beset with gloom? 
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken? 
Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you? 
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you? 
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs? 

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise. 

2. When I Think About Myself

Maya Angelou Poems

When I think about myself, 
I almost laugh myself to death, 
My life has been one great big joke, 
A dance that’s walked 
A song that’s spoke, 
I laugh so hard I almost choke 
When I think about myself.

Sixty years in these folks’ world 
The child I works for calls me girl 
I say ‘Yes ma’am’ for working’s sake. 
Too proud to bend 
Too poor to break, 
I laugh until my stomach ache, 
When I think about myself.

My folks can make me split my side, 
I laughed so hard I nearly died, 
The tales they tell, sound just like lying, 
They grow the fruit, 
But eat the rind, 
I laugh until I start to crying, 
When I think about my folks. 

3. Equality

Maya Angelou Poems

You declare you see me dimly 
through a glass which will not shine, 
though I stand before you boldly, 
trim in rank and marking time. 
You do own to hear me faintly 
as a whisper out of range, 
while my drums beat out the message 
and the rhythms never change.

Equality, and I will be free. 
Equality, and I will be free.

You announce my ways are wanton, 
that I fly from man to man, 
but if I’m just a shadow to you, 
could you ever understand ?

We have lived a painful history, 
we know the shameful past, 
but I keep on marching forward, 
and you keep on coming last.

Equality, and I will be free. 
Equality, and I will be free.

Take the blinders from your vision, 
take the padding from your ears, 
and confess you’ve heard me crying, 
and admit you’ve seen my tears.

Hear the tempo so compelling, 
hear the blood throb in my veins. 
Yes, my drums are beating nightly, 
and the rhythms never change.

Equality, and I will be free. 
Equality, and I will be free. 

4. Passing Time

Maya Angelou Poems

Your skin like dawn
Mine like musk

One paints the beginning
of a certain end.

The other, the end of a
sure beginning. 

5. Son to Mother

Maya Angelou Poems

I start no
wars, raining poison
on cathedrals,
melting Stars of David
into golden faucets
to be lighted by lamps
shaded by human skin.

I set no
store on the strange lands,
send no
missionaries beyond my
borders,
to plunder secrets
and barter souls.

They
say you took my manhood,
Momma.
Come sit on my lap
and tell me,
what do you want me to say
to them, just
before I annihilate
their ignorance ? 

6. Caged Bird

Maya Angelou Poems

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill 
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

7. Alone

Maya Angelou Poems

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
‘Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone. 

8. Woman Work

Maya Angelou Poems

I’ve got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry
The baby to dry
I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I’ve got shirts to press
The tots to dress
The can to be cut
I gotta clean up this hut
Then see about the sick
And the cotton to pick.

Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.

Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
‘Til I can rest again.

Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.

Sun, rain, curving sky
Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
You’re all that I can call my own.

9. Human Family

Maya Angelou Poems

I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.

I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I’ve not seen any two
who really were the same.

Mirror twins are different
although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China,
we weep on England’s moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we’re the same.

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.  

10.  Touched By An Angel

Maya Angelou Poems

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

11. The Lesson

Maya Angelou Poems

I keep on dying again.
Veins collapse, opening like the
Small fists of sleeping
Children.
Memory of old tombs,
Rotting flesh and worms do
Not convince me against
The challenge. The years
And cold defeat live deep in
Lines along my face.
They dull my eyes, yet
I keep on dying,
Because I love to live. 

12. The Traveller

Maya Angelou Poems

Byways and bygone
And lone nights long
Sun rays and sea waves
And star and stone

Manless and friendless
No cave my home
This is my torture
My long nights, lone 

Maya Angelou Quotes

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Nothing will work unless you do.

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at it destination full of hope

There is more to life than simply increasing its speed

There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean

Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.

You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.

Related:

“Do it Anyway” – Inspirational Poem of Mother Teresa/Kent M. Keith

Friendship Poems

Motivational Poem – Days Teach Me