As many of you know, renowned author and poet Maya Angelou passed away on May 28, a day after my birthday. I’m heartbroken to say the least, as she was one of my favorite authors. She inspired me as a poet and writer. I first read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in high school. Her story compelled me to read the rest of her autobiography, which I own. I have many of her books of poetry, as well.
What made me connect to her story exactly? Emotional truth. She was not afraid to tell her story. And even if she was, she told it anyway. She told the story that was uniquely her own in a way that no one else could. Her voice (her song) was unmistakable and true. There is power in telling the truth. It doesn’t have to be the universal truth, it just has to be your own experience. Honest and raw. Naked on the page. Blood and tears. Ironically, this is what gives readers hope.
A caged bird wants something. Freedom. And we can all relate to that. It gives us something to root for. We hear its sad, beautiful song and we want to see that little bird fly.
I began writing my emotional truth in poetry. I started out slowly. Quietly. Going to open mic events at my university. I soon earned the nickname “Quiet Storm.” Each time I went, I shared a piece of my emotional truth. And each time I let my words out, my voice grew stronger.
Something else amazing happened. The audience reacted to my poetry. People started coming up to me after readings. People that, at first glance, I would never guess I had anything in common with. I could never predict how they would react to my words, but they always felt something. A connection. That was powerful. Connection through shared stories. I never wanted that feeling to go away.
There’s a wonderful quote by Dr. Angelou on her website. “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” What’s your song? Don’t be afraid to share your story. Not only will it set you free, but it just might start a chain reaction. Thank you Maya for being the catalyst for me. You’re free now and probably somewhere flying.