Maya, Oh My

Only a woman who's been everything from a madam and an actress to a playwright and a civil rights activist could get us to read a six-volume autobiography. Only a woman whose honorary degrees read like a grocery list and whose résumé boasts being the inaugural poet for former President Bill Clinton could make us long for part seven. Only Maya Angelou.

Beginning with 1970’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which was nominated for a National Book Award, and concluding with 2002's best-selling A Song Flung Up to Heaven, Angelou has enthralled readers with the story of her life. Her books contain tales of struggle and triumph and pain and joy, and while that's all incredibly captivating, it's her style that keeps fingers flipping the pages.

It would be no mistake to call her work moving—and not just in the sense that it's emotionally stirring. Her words seem to literally move; they have a lyrical quality and a tempo that give her sentences a musical feel—sometimes like hurried eighth notes, sometimes like full, rich whole notes. It also doesn't hurt that she's a master of the quotable line, such as this gem from 1981's The Heart of a Woman: "I had to trust life, since I was young enough to believe that life loved the person who dared to live it." And this, from 1976's Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas: "Avarice cripples virtue and lies in ambush for honesty."

All considered, it's easy to see why Maya Angelou is one of Oprah Winfrey's favorite things. Hear Dr. Angelou (she's also a professor) read her poetry and prose during An Evening With Maya Angelou, being presented as part of the University of Texas at Arlington's Homecoming Week celebration, Texas Hall's 40th anniversary and Multicultural Affairs' Black History Month programs. The event is 8 p.m. Saturday in Texas Hall, 701 W. Nedderman Drive in Arlington. Tickets, which are $12 to $53, can be purchased at or in the Department of Student Activities. Call 817-272-2963.
Sat., Feb. 25, 8 p.m.

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Rhonda Reinhart