Thursday, January 12, 2012

Maya, Dr. Fry, and Me

I seem to be a sucker for poetry in the wintertime.  Last year it was Billy Collins.  Today it was Maya Angelou.  I'm thinking of making this an annual mental excursion.  My brain is a-twitter with the rhythm and the rhyme and the grace and the depth of Ms. Angelou's words as spoken by William Fry, Ph.D.
The Happy Ladies Club monthly luncheon speaker, Dr. Fry, according to The Learning Curve brochure, is an award-winning literature professor.  From my personal experience this afternoon, I can add brilliant interpreter of the poet's words.  It was a pleasure to be in the room with him.

He read us They Went Home:
They went home and told their wives,
that never once in all their lives,
had they known a girl like me,
But... They went home.

They said my house was licking clean,
no word I spoke was ever mean,
I had an air of mystery,
But... They went home.

My praises were on all men's lips,
they liked my smile, my wit, my hips,
they'd spend one night, or two or three.

and his outstretched arm at the end encouraged us to ruefully supply the refrain.  We were there with her, watching as They went home.  Dr. Fry had made it so.

Phenomenal Woman was another joint venture.  Picture a room full of women-of-a-certain-age, well dressed, well coiffed, and well fed, repeating Phenomenally ... Phenomenal woman, that's me. I tell you, denizens, it was really a moment.  Read on and hear us, smiling and nodding and feeling phenomenally phenomenal ourselves:
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
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
There was more, but my words are feeling paltry after reading and rereading Maya Angelou.

If you are looking for more of her work,  this is a good place to start.

I'll leave you with these two stanzas from Still I 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.
I'm going to be walking like I've got oil wells Pumping in my living room from now on.  Want to join me?


  1. I had the honor of seeing Maya Angelou at Bill Clinton's first inauguration. Ever since, I've been hooked on her poetry. A friend of mine is a friend of Maya's. I remember one day she sent him the most lovely orchid to our office.

    He told me she's an amazing woman. I don't know her personally, but she's one of those people I admire.

    Thanks for this post today. It's really cheered me up.

    Megan xxx

  2. We aim to please, Megan :) She has truly made lemonade out of lemons in her lifetime; Ms. Angelou is now on my list of favorite humans, too.

  3. I have not read Maya Angelou's works. I had no idea she was so much fun!

  4. That's the best part of the whole experience, Linda. Really good poetry does not have to be inaccessible. Touching your "smile spot" works, too :)


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