When I was in my first year at university, we had a course called Personal Management. In short, the course was designed to boost our confidence, help us grow, and polish our personal attributes by working on various in-class exercises. For our final, we had to perform an act by impersonating a famous celebrity. I wanted to skip the final, because speaking out in class was the last thing I wanted to do. I was really, really nervous. Back then I had sort of a phobia, I guess. I would always find a way to get out of speaking in presentations. I would always get stuck making the slides, or writing the report and my other teammates would speak.
However, this final was individual work. It was all down to me. A one-man show. And it made up 20% of my grade. I was truly in a dilemma. All the other people in the class were either performing songs, acting out scenes from popular movies or doing famous dance routines. I wanted to disappear. A friend, deciding to be helpful, told me to do something that I’d be comfortable with. And so, after racking my brain for hours and wallowing away in self-pity, something struck me. I could read out a poem. And so, I instantly chose And Still I Rise, by Maya Angelou because:
a. That poem is AMAZING. Like, oh my God. That poem is brilliantly written.
b. Because Maya. Need I say more?
My final went really nice. Reading out the poem didn’t make me feel nervous at all. And I put up my best Maya Angelou impression, although I can never amount to the brilliant, BRILLIANT writer that she was. Her death has truly shocked me, and is a huge loss for the literary world. She was a great contributor to literature. Her voice has fallen silent, but her poems shall live forever.
I’ll leave you with some of her words:
1. “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.” -I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
2. “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” -Letter to My Daughter.
3. “Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size. But when I start to tell them, They think I’m telling lies. I say, it’s in the reach of my arms, The span of my hips, The stride of my step, The curl of my lips. I’m a woman phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that’s me.” -Phenomenal Woman.
4. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
5. “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.”
6. “Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”
7. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
8. “You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod 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
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise.” -And Still I Rise.
RIP Maya. 1928-2014.
You were my inspiration. ❤
My shot at writing Zuihitsu. For those who don’t know, Zuihitsu is a Japanese style of poetry prose, which consists of random personal thoughts, and fragmented ideas of the author. They are written casually and randomly, without any pre-planned thoughts. This was our final paper in Advanced English Composition class in my last year at university. Each of us had to write about things that quicken our hearts.
1. When the cake that you spent an hour on, rises beautifully in the oven. The aroma of the soft, warm cake fills your lungs with craving and the sweetness of the first bite lingers on your tongue.
2. When you experience your first snowfall. The winds are cold, yet bearable, and when the first snowflake gets caught in your hair, your heart swells with happiness.
3. When autumn arrives, and the shady trees start to strip; and their orange leaves fall to the ground. The soft crunch the dry, and withered leaves make when stepped on, quickens my heart.
4. The bookstore and its own distinctive smell; of old books, old paper and of ink. The books sit there on the shelves, patiently waiting to be opened, to be read, and to be loved.
5. A warm cup of coffee, that tastes just right. The soft aroma of the coffee beans and sugar boosts and exhilarates your senses, and the first sip makes you want more.
6. When it is night, and thoughts, in the dark of your room, creep up in your mind that have the power to suffocate you into sleep and stab you awake before the right hour.
7. When the drums beat, music starts, and the man wearing the sparkly silver glove, white sequined socks and the black fedora strikes a pose and moonwalks his way across the stage.
8. Tiny, forgotten notes that fall from your old books and desk drawers; the paper has aged with time, the words now faded, yet, the sentimental value remains the same.
9. When the sun is up, the sky blue and the day is going well and you hear an announcement of a neighbor’s death from the loudspeakers of the mosque.
10. When you’re sitting on the high chair at the well-lit salon, wearing the long plastic overcoat that hugs your neck, and you realize that the hairdresser has cut your hair more than what you had asked her to.
11. When the battery of your phone dies. The lifeless phone, without power to turn it on, is as useless as a candle without flame on a cold wintry night.
12. Adrenaline pumps through the veins and your heart thunders loudly in your rib cage, as you walk into the spotlight and stage fright overcomes you.
13. You come home after a long tiring day, with a growling stomach, and a delicious smell of food greets you at the door.
14. When your eleven-year-old brothers are wrestling one another, jumping here and there on the bed, and one of them falls down on the floor with a loud thud and a moan.
15. That feeling you get when you give someone the perfect gift. The look on their smiling faces, as they rip the wrapping paper apart with anticipation and excitement, is just priceless.
16. That moment when words start to stream like a river in your mind, but as soon as the pen strikes paper; the thoughts come to a stop and fade away.
17. When you are lounging on the sofa, lost in the movie that you’re watching, and suddenly you realize that you have left the food to heat up on full flame on the stove.
18. A honeybee resting on a flower is a pretty sight, but when it flies fiercely close to your ear, you think otherwise, suddenly fearing the sting of its sharp bite.
19. When you are standing at the rooftop of a skyscraper and look down; the zooming cars seem like little toys, and the people like tiny ants. The wind slaps your face, as your heartbeat escalates, and your height fright intensifies.
20. When you realize that your teacher stood right behind you, and listened to your every word, while you casually sassed him in front of your friends.
I'm a disease,
One without a cure.
Pain is cold
Like waves on the shore.
I am weird,
Right outta my head.
Pain is agony
Like the sun, but dead.
I am alone,
No one to lean on.
Pain is free
Like the lands forlorn.
I am Me,
just a wanderer.
Pain is Me
I wrote this poem on January 28th 2010. I had a very high fever at the time.