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Phenomenal Woman
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Editor's note: We were deeply saddened to learn of Dr. Maya Angelou's passing. The following work was published April 2011.

In 24 All-Star Readers on the Words That Rock Their Worlds, Oprah calls Maya Angelou's poem "life defining."
Phenomenal Woman

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.

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
Phenomenally.
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
Phenomenally.
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 for my care.
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
—Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou on how to write—and how to live
Oprah interviews Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou on the joys of cooking
Maya Angelou talks about the writing life

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    8 Comments
    Elizabeth Buch
    2 days ago
    Thank you, Maya Angelou. We are with you Phenomenal Women. #lovemaya
    jannz61
    8 days ago
    The words in this poem inspired me to see my own beauty when others didn't.
    jannz61
    8 days ago
    May you rest in peace Ms Angelou... Phenomenal Women you are
    Jen White
    9 days ago
    PHENOMENAL, PHENOMENAL, PHENOMENAL!!! A life well lived serving others - the epitome of what our role should be to each other, a great example of love. An extraordinary legacy left to all of us, who appreciate her work, those closest to her, maybe more than others. In all that is said and done, the many acts of love expressed, I am not only remembering WHO she was, but WHOSE she was. We can all be thankful that God blessed us with such a phenomenal lady who provided us with words of comfort, love and support through books, manuscripts, poetry, a little acting and a little singing. I am wishing all of us, “Angelougians”, God’s Peace that surpasses all understanding. Love & Prayers To All!


    Edie Anderson
    9 days ago
    The first book I ever read all the way through...then... all the way through again..."I know Why the Caged Bird Sings"...I  never met Miss Angelou, but I have friends who knew her personally.  I have always felt her spirit ...I feel it when I read her poems and I feel it when I hear her voice and see her face in photos, on TV and on the big screen...so her spirit is and always will be with me...that's why I mourn her as if I'm mourning own Mother...Rest in peace Ms. Angelou, your work on earth is well done...
    Lysabel Reyes
    9 days ago
    ­When I first read this poem from Maya Angelou. It helped me through a hard time in my life growing up with 4 other sisters, I was not the pretty one, or the most graceful one and not chasing the new women's fashion. It was then that I learned to love me.
    Mary Jackson
    9 days ago
    I named my only child after this woman. She was the ultimate symbol of wisdom, knowledge and strength of a black woman. My favorite thing about her was....She kept it real! Another angel gets their wings! You will be missed!
    ArisingArtists
    9 days ago
    May this PHENOMENAL WOMAN/QUEEN S.I.P.....Thank you MAYA ANGELOU for the Wonderful Words of Wisdom You Shared and Inspired Us with.

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    Oprah Talks to Maya Angelou
    Editor's note: We were deeply saddened to learn of Dr. Maya Angelou's passing. The following is from the May 2013 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.

    A performer, poet, activist, memoirist and teacher, Maya Angelou has lived an extraordinary life. Now 85, she's published her 34th book: a deeply personal history of her relationship with her indomitable mother, Vivian Baxter, who encouraged her to live life with "pizzazz." In an intimate conversation, Angelou talks to Oprah about God, forgiveness, the healing powers of love—and the day Baxter handed her a gun and told her to go kill the man who'd abused her.
    Maya Angelou and Oprah
    Photo: Joe Pugliese

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    Like many of you, I first encountered Maya Angelou through her 1969 autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. As I've said many times on the Oprah show, I was captivated from the very first page, when an awkward young girl in a lavender taffeta dress stands up in church in Arkansas and forgets the lines of a poem she's reciting:

    "What are you looking at me for? I didn't come to stay...I just come to tell you, it's Easter Day." Like Maya, I was a Negro girl—that's what we were called back then—being raised in the South by my grandmother, and like her, I loved to read. This was the first time I'd encountered anyone in a book whose life so closely resembled my own. I felt validated—like someone knew me. Maya would go on to write six more autobiographies, as well as countless poems and essays, and I've continued to feel that she has a unique gift for making her life resonate with the stories of all our lives.

    When I first met Maya, in the '70s, I couldn't have guessed what the next few decades would bring—or that she would be there for me every step of the way, a wise, loving presence and the greatest mentor I've ever known. Over the years, she has taught me some of the most profound lessons of my life: that when we know better, we do better; that to love someone is to liberate, not possess, them; that negative words have the power to seep into the furniture and into our skin; that we should be grateful even for our trials. She calls me her darling girl, and I call her my mother-sister-friend. And as I soak up her wisdom and marvel at her stamina, I bask in the pure, contagious joy she takes in living.

    Because this I know for sure: No one lives like Maya. This is a woman who, in addition to her acclaimed books, has written screenplays and poems, befriended Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., worked for civil rights, acted on Broadway, been nominated for a Tony and a Pulitzer, and won three Grammys. To everything life has offered her, she has said yes—with soul and heart. In sharing with us her experiences and her glorious gift for language, she not only shows us ourselves; she makes us want to live our lives and love our lives. Maya recently visited me at Harpo Studios in Chicago to chat about her new memoir, Mom & Me & Mom, a moving homage to the mother who helped make her the woman she is today. Of course, we also talked about our long friendship, and I managed to ask her how she's been able to age with such grace, gratitude and wit. I'm so proud to share her words with you.

    Next: Read Oprah's full interview with Maya Angelou
    PAGE 1 of 6

    Comment

      5 Comments
      Mariela Rodriguez
      9 days ago
      My condolences to Maya son and family ,but to you too, Oprah this is your physical loss but you know  she will be in spirit with you and those that love her, and had great respect for her may that determination she had and the free spirit stay with us we need more LADY"S like her.  GOD BLESS
      Kristi Ardoin
      9 days ago
      The love of one person can heal scars .... God loves me and I am amazed by that. 
      Tracy Long
      9 days ago
      Your energy will always be around us.  Thank you for everything!
      Barbara Patrick
      9 days ago
      I pay respect to Maya Angelou who has moved on from this earth. I couldn't cry anymore; because she represented strength and courage. Let us remember the woman who gave each of us a piece of hope and taught us to take hope and rise above our circumstances. You will be missed and I loved you so much!
      Kyan Sanderson
      61 days ago
      Dearest Oprah and Dr. Maya Angelou - I too have followed and trusted Maya Angelou from the very first page of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  I have read and reread every single one of her books and followed her throughout the fifteen plus years of knowing just who she was.  While going to the University of Wyoming,  she was scheduled to speak right after the unfortunate death of Matthew Shepard.  I purchased the first ticket.  Unfortunately, she got very ill and could not come.  Many said it was for fear of the recent killing - but without physically know Ms. Angelou - I knew that this was absolutely absurd and untrue.  As she celebrates her 86th year of life I grow more and more connected to her and have said for year - without a shadow of a doubt that I will meet her.  She is a guru to me and I am thankful beyond words for that.  So, maybe someday she will venture to Sheridan, Wyoming for a lovely visit or I can take a trip back east to say hello and thank you.  You both are gems.  With many blessings, I say thank you.  Respectfully, Kyan.

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      7 Inspiring Quotes From Maya Angelou
      1 of 7
      maya angelou quotes

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        1 Comment
        Barbara Patrick
        8 days ago
        Thank you for posting such beautiful quotes. I have been inspired from the many quotations on your website.

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        Phenomenal: A Tribute to Oprah from Maya Angelou
        maya angelou
        Photo: © Patrick Fraser/Corbis Outline

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        There's no straight line from Kosciusko, Mississippi, to Paris, France, or to London, England, or to, for that matter, Chicago, Illinois. The fact is that Oprah Winfrey reaches all those places with her irresistible personality and charm.

        Her journey has been, and still is, complicated. She was born poor in a poverty-stricken village in Mississippi. She was born Black in an era and an area where racism was the order of the day and was to be expected and legally accepted.

        Fortunately, before she reached her teens, she had heard and believed the lyrics of an old gospel that advised, "Don’t you let nobody turn you round, turn you round, turn you round." She decided that she would not allow anyone or any group to reduce her humanity.

        Oprah began to read in the library of the Black school in Kosciusko, Mississippi. She drank down novels as if they contained the sweet iced tea of southern summers. She met White children in the pages who were worlds apart from the mean White youngsters who teased her and called her vulgar names in the dirt roads of her hometown. She read and memorized the poetry of the great African American poets Langston Hughes and Paul Laurence Dunbar. Their lines, filled with self-respect, had an enormous impact on the young Winfrey. The poets exclaimed that Black was not only beautiful, but also exquisite. Langston Hughes's "Harlem Sweeties" told her that her complexion was perfect, and the poem strengthened her resolve to grow beyond the confines of negativity.

        Have you dug the spill
        Of Sugar Hill?
        Cast your gims
        On this sepia thrill:
        Brown sugar lassie,
        Caramel treat,
        Honey-gold baby
        Sweet enough to eat.

        So if you want to know beauty's
        Rainbow-sweet thrill,
        Stroll down luscious,
        Delicious, fine Sugar Hill.

        Oprah, like any other southern-born Black child, desperately needed the assurance that African Americans were worthy of praise and appreciation. She found that assurance in James Weldon Johnson’s song, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," known as the African American National Anthem.

        Lift every voice and sing,
        Till earth and heaven ring,
        Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
        Let our rejoicing rise
        High as the listening skies,
        Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
        Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
        Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
        Facing the rising sun of our new day begun.
        Let us march on till victory is won.

        The climate in Kosciusko was heavy with the idea that White was always right and White had might and that Black should always get back, get back. Oprah decided that she would not indulge any man-made hindrance between human beings constructed for someone else’s convenience and at someone else’s whim.

        The question was: How could a Black girl born into such a negative climate escape this crippling environment and become one of the most powerful voices in the world?

        Oprah used her deeply felt religion to combat all the offensive strikes against her. She believed that she was a child of God and took sincerely the words of a nineteenth-century hymn writer:

        My Father is rich in houses and lands,
        He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands!
        Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold,
        His coffers are filled, He has riches untold.
        I’m a child of the King.
        A child of the King:
        With Jesus my Savior,
        I’m a child of the King.

        She began to recite in her grandmother's church, and the older church members commended her, bragged about her, and said she was very good.

        When Oprah Winfrey left Mississippi and later went to live with her father in Tennessee, she found herself less restricted, less hemmed in by racism.

        Conversations in her father's barbershop were driven by political and social issues. Winfrey bloomed. When she entered Tennessee State University, she was convinced of a belief she had held secretly and that belief was: She was, after all, very intelligent.

        Oprah Winfrey was given not only a fine brain but also enormous energy. Her ambitions had not focused on any desire, save to be the best she could be.

        When I was told of this book and informed that a number of people would write about Oprah Winfrey and possibly describe her, I was reminded of an ancient Indian folktale about a group of blind people who were asked to describe a super-size elephant.

        One person was taken to the elephant's side. He used both hands to feel the rough skin of the animal. He exclaimed, “I know what an elephant is. He is a hairy wall.”

        The second person was given the wiggly tail, and he shouted, "An elephant is a very excited snake." A third person was guided to the trunk, and he said, “I know an elephant is a tree.” Each person found another portion of the elephant to describe.

        Ms. Oprah Winfrey is much more complex than an elephant or even a herd of elephants. These writers (I include myself) who have attempted to describe Oprah are not blind. So I am sure this book will offer many facts. Since I know that facts can often obscure the truth, I can tell you one truth about Oprah Winfrey that I have learned in our friendship over twenty-five years.

        Oprah Winfrey is a child of God and a citizen of the world. Phenomenally.

        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 palms of my hands.
        The need for my care.
        'Cause I’m a woman
        Phenomenally.
        Phenomenal woman,
        That's Oprah.

        “Phenomenal” © 2011 Maya Angelou Courtesy of Abrams from The Oprah Winfrey Show: Reflections on an American Legacy

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          11 Ways to Keep the Faith (No Matter What Happens)
          1 of 11
          Anne Lamott quote

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            1 Comment
            Cliff Stauber
            19 days ago
            ah-ha  not romantic love but spiritual love.  We are all bonded by the same dna and within it lies our greatest gift - love.  It's free and it feels good to give and good to receive.  now today - tell a neighbour, a friend, or tell a stranger -  I LULU (I love you, love you)  so now I LULU - tag you're it - pass it on.  GB-Linda

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            Take the Leap: Why Change is Good
            Meghan Daum risks her heart and home with mixed results.
            Farmhouse
            Photo: Thinkstock

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            Last summer, I did something that made a lot of people think I was crazy. I moved out of my spacious, comfortable house in a small city and rented a tiny, drafty farmhouse several miles from town. Unlike my previous residence, which had a large office, central air-conditioning, and a guy who showed up to rake the leaves in the fall and shovel the snow in the winter, the farmhouse was like a homesteader's shanty. A one-story, 800-square-foot affair, it seemed to face the natural elements—the blinding prairie snowdrifts, the merciless high plains winds—like a submissive dog; it just crouched on its hind legs and relinquished all authority.

            Which is sort of what I did, too. Unlike my old house, where I could eat dinner at 10 P.M. and talk on the phone all night, the farm was a joint venture. I moved here with my boyfriend, Henry, a man with no more disposable income than me (which is to say, none), a penchant for adopting unusual animals, and three exuberant boys whose hobbies include shooting pellet guns.

            I made this move because I'd wanted to live on a farm my whole life. As much as I liked the solitude and space of my house in town, I'd spent nearly every Sunday since I'd been there scouring the classifieds for a farm where Henry and I could keep animals, watch the sun set, and stretch a clothesline between two cottonwood trees. When we finally found our farm, it was perfect in every way except for the house, which, with its two small bedrooms, was about five rooms short of ideal. Since I work at home and Henry's boys visit regularly, I could see we were in for an adjustment. As we moved in, the 10-by-12-foot room that would be my office spilled over with not only my desk, books, and files but also with sleeping bags and pillows for Henry's boys. To my dismay, I learned that the phone wiring wouldn't support an additional fax line. I could feel my independence slipping through my fingers. For the first time in my life, I suffered from insomnia.

            When I took a chance and moved to this farm, I understood full well that I was trading autonomy and privacy for cramped quarters, extra responsibilities, and bills from places like the farm insurance bureau. It hardly surprised me that the first few months strained my relationship with Henry, not to mention my professional life and our finances. Nor was I surprised when hints of progress—we adopted two puppies, we hosted a successful Christmas party—always seemed to be followed by more small crises. The oven broke. The refrigerator broke. The puppies fought with each other, and, through agony and tears, I had to give one of them away. It was as if the farm were a needy child, a dependent that was constantly tugging at my skirt. But though there were days when I scanned the classified ads for houses back in town, I told myself to stick it out. The decision to try out this lifestyle was my own, and I owed it to myself to see where it would take me.
            PAGE 1 of 2

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