© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Arts & Culture

Carmen Tafolla On Maya Angelou's Passing And Art

Chris Eudaily
TPR News
Carmen Tafolla.

Poet Maya Angelou died Wednesday morning, and who better for perspective on her passing than former San Antonio Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla.

"With the passing of Maya Angelou we have lost not just a great literary voice, but a courageous voice in defense of humanity." Tafolla said.

Here's an excerpt of the Paul Laurence Dunbar poem "Sympathy," which is perhaps Angelou's most apt metaphor and serves as the title of her autobiography:

"I know what the caged bird feels, when the sun is bright on the upland slopes, when the wind is soft through the springing grass, and the river floats like a sheet of glass."

Tafolla explains its relevance:

"She truly helped our nation understand why the 'caged bird' sang, and also a small part of what it would take to set that bird free. She broadened our sense of humanity," Tafolla said.

Angelou’s life story was that of a performer, poet, writer, speaker and much more.

“Whenever I look at her life I feel filled with joy that it was a life lived to the maximum potential," Tafolla said.

Given Tafolla's line of work, I had to wonder if she'd ever met Angelou.

"Yes, yes, I met her several times at various literary conferences in the 80s and 90s. I heard her read in the late 70s. She carried with her an aura of compassion, but absolutely undauntable strength," Tafolla said. "She just moved like a crowd through a tidal wave. She didn’t waste one breath."

Another excerpt from "Sympathy":

"When the first bird sings, and the first bud ops, and the faint perfume from its chalice steals. I know what the caged bird feels."