Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

At 83, Maya Angelou is still singing and writing — she's finishing her 32nd book

Maya Angelou attends events as she can, including a celebration for her friend Oprah Winfrey earlier this year in Chicago.

Getty Images

Maya Angelou attends events as she can, including a celebration for her friend Oprah Winfrey earlier this year in Chicago.

WASHINGTON

Poet, writer, civil rights activist, professor, filmmaker, dramatist, singer, Grammy Award winner: Maya Angelou, 83, has also been called the nation's premier memoirist. She was in Washington recently speaking about her long, rich life. Having come to prominence in 1970 with the publication of her acclaimed first memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou still teaches, still writes, still travels, though she is physically more limited these days. In February she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her lifetime contributions. • Appearing at a conference organized by LeadingAge, an advocacy and education group, Angelou recounted stories of her childhood, broke into soft song, told jokes and read from her poems, including The Health-Food Diner, an ode to her previous life as what the poem calls a "carnivore smoking":

No sprouted wheat and soya shoots

And Brussels in a cake,

Carrot straw and spinach raw,

(Today, I need a steak).

Her audience loved it, applauding and laughing.

Angelou, who speaks English, French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and the West African language of Fanti, spent a few minutes before her appearance talking about aging.

When did you start feeling your age?

(Laughs.) This morning, getting in and out of that bus. Generally, I feel good.

What is the best part about aging?

Wisdom. Enough wisdom to thank your creator, if you believe there is one, or your luck, if you don't.

What has been the hardest?

Finding I had muscles I didn't know I had, and joints that I didn't know could be so recalcitrant. The physical discomfort is probably the worst.

Has aging changed your creative process?

Not at all. I am just finishing a new book. It will be my 32nd book. (My mind) is good. It's a good mind, and I keep it active.

I play word games and do crossword puzzles, acrostics and word jumbles. And I speak a few languages. I take every advantage to use one of the languages. That keeps the brain active.

What do you hold most dear?

Love. I don't mean indulgent love. I mean that condition of the human spirit that is so profound that it can allow us to look at people and not eat each other up, to accord each other some rights and to go further than that, to try to love them, whatever that mystery is.

To love people who don't look like us, who have different complexions and different hair, and to love them. To feel empathy for pets and wildlife. It's amazing.

And what of friends?

That is love. I don't mean sexuality. I mean sensuality.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

My greatest blessing is giving birth to my son. (Guy Johnson, born in 1945, is a writer.)

Any regrets?

I wish I had known more, but I didn't. I only knew as much as I did at that time.

The most wonderful thing, as soon as possible, is to forgive yourself. People do only what they know what to do, not what you think they should do. Not because they were experienced or were exposed to this and went to this school and have this degree.

We think they know, but not necessarily. Intellectually they might memorize certain statements. But they don't know, in fact.

When I have made mistakes, I forgive myself. I forgive anyone who comes in my earshot. I try to make sure I don't make that one (mistake) again.

At 83, Maya Angelou is still singing and writing — she's finishing her 32nd book 11/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 5:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.